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India Currents gave me a voice in days I was very lost. Having my articles selected for publishing was very validating – Shailaja Dixit, Executive Director, Narika, Fremont
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone”
“Koi Kafi Akela Hai; Koi Akela Hi Kafi Hai”
(Some are always lonely, others are content even when alone)
Company matters when you seek solitude
Ever since I was a child, I have been sensitive, emotional, and introverted; I have always been picky about the kind of people I interact with. I would prefer to be alone than to interact with people whose personalities I found unpleasant. By the same token, when I am with people, I am always concerned that what I say may hurt someone’s feelings, assuming that other people may be just as sensitive and emotional as I am.
I don’t forget easily. I can still recall if someone offended me or if I hurt someone’s feelings 60 years ago. Luckily for me, I am good at forgiving others and myself, but, unfortunately, I am not as good at forgetting. So to save myself some heartache, I choose to be careful about the company I keep.
Socializing the introvert’s way
As Dr. Craig Sawchuk, a Mayo Clinic psychologist, says, socializing is key to good mental and physical health. But socializing varies from individual to individual. An introverted person has far less need to socialize than an extrovert.
Also, socializing doesn’t always have to be in person. I am, for instance, part of a Gmail group with my friends from college in Kanpur, many of whom I haven’t seen in over 55 years. I can have meaningful discussions in the group on any topic, and exchange interesting, informative, and entertaining information, even about personal issues, without having to meet them in person.
An intellectual discussion keeps our brain cells active, and pouring our hearts out to friends benefits our emotional health.
I find my e-socializing sometimes more fulfilling, stimulating, meaningful, and convenient than the idle chitchats of in-person socializing, which requires so much effort on the part of everyone, especially, if one of us is hosting. During the pandemic, we occasionally interacted over Zoom. That was just as satisfying.
Company of others should be a choice, not a need
To me, the quality of my friendships is more important than the number of friends I have. Too often, I find people socializing because they feel uncomfortable when they are by themselves.
It is best, I feel, to learn to like one’s own company; after all, we come to this world alone and leave the world alone. As author R.K. Narayan once famously stated, “A profound unmitigated loneliness is the only truth of life.” Therefore, the company of others should ideally be a choice, not a need.
I have noticed that too much socializing can sometimes be detrimental to familial bonds. Quality family time is more important than spending time with friends. Over-socializing can result in neglect of children and other family members.
To each his/her own
People socialize not just to beat loneliness or due to peer pressure, but also for dating and professional networking. These, I believe, are indeed good reasons to socialize.
Unlike for an extrovert who enjoys being among people, for an introverted person like me, the company of others is not so crucial. A distinction also needs to be made between being alone and being lonely. It’s possible to feel lonely in a crowd if you don’t feel comfortable with your company, and it’s possible to be blissful being by yourself and enjoying what you are doing.
For folks who are into socializing because of peer pressure, grade your experience. Ask yourself a simple question: “Am I more knowledgeable and happier as a result of socializing?” If the answer is yes, it was time well spent.
Benefits of solitude are well-documented
To my pleasant surprise, many research papers and articles have documented the benefits of solitude. One research suggests that people usually tap into their creativity when they are alone rather than when they are in the company of others. I know that in my case all my creative ideas usually come to me either when I am doing my daily walk or while showering or reading or writing, but seldom in the company of others.
In a blog post, author and executive coach Ray Williams enumerates the benefits of solitude:
- Your brain and nervous system have a chance to decompress and recharge
- Self-Awareness increases
- Memory improves
- Problem solving improves
- Creativity is enhanced
- Relationships improve
- Mindfulness practices can be enhanced and strengthened
To this list, I would like to add that solitude can be helpful for spiritual growth as it allows for reflection, introspection, self-discovery, and self-awareness. The following two verses of “Bhagavad Gita” reinforce this point.
- BG 6.10. Let the Yogi try constantly to keep the mind steady, remaining in solitude, alone, with the mind and body controlled, free from hope and greed
- BG 13.11: Constant and exclusive devotion toward Me; an inclination for solitary places and an aversion for mundane society
It is important that each individual finds their own balance between solitude and socializing. The one-size-fits-all approach rarely works.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of India Currents. Any content provided by our bloggers or authors are of their opinion and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, organization, individual or anyone or anything.