Sunday Thoughts (solitude)

I’ve thought a lot about what we’ve been through in the past year. How isolating it has been, and the lack of contact we’ve had with each other.

Real, human interaction. Not disconnected voices on the phone, or video on a screen.

And I can’t wait for things to be more normal again.

But as real and impactful as this isolation has been on our mental and even physical health, I am a little concerned about what might seem like the exact opposite.

Our lack of solitude

Think about it. For the first time in our history, we’re subjected to near constant inputs, thanks to technology.

From the moment we open our eyes to the time we turn out the lights at night.

The overwhelming urge to fill our time with something – anything – at all times, is going to have an impact on us. And I’m concerned we don’t even know how troubling this will be.

You see it all around you, and you’re likely sucked into it yourself. 

The urge to pull out your phone to fill the moments at a stoplight. Or waiting in line somewhere. 

Podcasts while we walk outside. Checking your email before you’ve even pushed back the covers. 

The TV on as a murmur in the background, while we cook, clean or just try to relax.

This lack of truly “alone time” leads to increases in anxiety, and ultimately, lower productivity. 

For as much as we all love to talk about “multi-tasking,” as humans, we’re really not very good at that. 

It makes problem solving more difficult, and at times (especially while driving) it can lead to dangerous distractions.

I’ve been looking into this recently, and I think we all could stand to be alone with our thoughts more.

So here’s what I’m going to do:

  1. At least occasionally, I’m going to exercise, walk or cook with no music, no news, no distractions. Just focus on the task at hand, or let my mind wander.
  2. For a certain period each day, the phone goes off. Put it in a drawer.
  3. When I’m standing in line somewhere, I’m going to make a point of making polite conversation, or just spending a little time thinking vs. distracting myself with the constant scrolling.
  4. And every weekend, I’m going to spend at least an hour outside with no book, no phone, no music, no nothing. Just a chance to breathe and think and get a little clearer in the head.

I have a feeling that this will be a welcome change. And hopefully, once we’re all together again – face to face – we’ll truly be face to face.

Instead of buried in our respective phones. 

Enjoy the rest of the weekend, and stay safe out there.

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Victor Vasquez jr - May 3, 2021

Thank you again for the motivation and insight, sometimes we forget how to be better.

Katy - May 3, 2021

A most apropos Sunday meditation! Thank you. You truly struck a chord with this one. I recently drove from Virginia to Wisconsin and discovered the rental car didn’t have SiriusXM. I was FINE! Of course, I’m also the only musician (or perhaps person) I know who has never had a single iTune! Life is so overstimulating these days. We cannot contemplate the higher things until we learn to turn off the lower.

Tammy R - May 3, 2021

I agree with this! Every work day at lunch I walk and leave my phone at work. At first it felt wrong. Now I am relieved to not have my phone. Need to expand on this. Great article.

Phil - May 3, 2021

Right-on Jeff, Mostly the exact thing I’ve been doing this past year. Especially walking for 20 to 40 minutes,
without news, music, or conversation. Has greatly added to balancing all this “exceptional” news….

Azahar - May 3, 2021

Thank you for your inspirational message! I don’t usually respond to messages on line but today I will. I’m feeling blessed today! A week ago at this very time I was in the ER/ED with signs and symptoms of a stroke. Last summer in June I did have a mild stroke (CVA)….I completely healed and have felt like it didn’t even happen. But it did. A week ago I had all the signs of it happening again….but to make a long story short I did not have stroke but a “complicated migraine,” which can mimic a stroke. I had one over 15 years ago, was paralyzed on one side, partial blindness, etc. After many tests the diagnosis was a complicated migraine. Since I have experienced both a real stroke and complicated migraine, I was very concerned that I was experiencing a real stroke this time. My BP was quite high, I had a horrible H/A, etc. The hospital kept me overnight but I had to try and sleep on a gurney because no hospital rooms were available. The next day all my tests (2 CT scans and MRI) showed no brain damage so it showed another migraine. I was so relieved! It is alarming still because the next time I will not know which it will be; a migraine or stroke because I have had both. Reading today’s message we really need to be thankful and enjoy our solitude. Be appreciative. Thank God. Thank all the people that dedicate their lives in helping others. Thank you.
Azahar. Retired. Nurse of 55 years, including over 22 years of skilled nursing in a Veteran’s Home, taking care of our veteran’s from WWI, WWII, Korean Conflict, Vietnam, and Desert Storm.

PJ HUN - May 3, 2021

I try to keep my phone on vibrate while shopping. I do think it is rude to be talking to some one on the phone when sitting next to friends in eateries, etc.
It is hard sometimes to turn off the thoughts so low music does seem to calm my mind. When struggling to go back to sleep, I will pray for loved ones and work a word search on paper with pen (not on smart phone)
I do try to listen to the birds out our back porch in the morning. I read or heard a comment that most people do not notice the birds and other wild life in their surroundings. I walk to the local stores and watch the robins feeding and saw a chipmunk running by to burrow in the ground. We have a pond out back so I hear the frogs and ducks when I am walking. Those sounds are soothing to me.

Mike Flanagan - May 3, 2021

Thanks for the article Jeff. Nothing clears my mind better than a nice long walk. However, I find it even more beneficial with my headphones on listening to my music. Truly relaxes m.

Graham - May 3, 2021

Think you are pretty much spot on. Humans were not made to be switched on 100% of the time and tuning out is just part of staying healthy. Enjoy your perspective on many topics.

Michael Etlick - May 3, 2021

Jeff: I hv learned at my young age(78)
May 20th that all you hv said makes sense. I walk 50 miles a week,giving me alot of time to think. I dont watch any tv in summer,an only check my phone after all my walks. It keeps me calm,healthy an happy.

Norman - May 2, 2021

We get involved with our phones to the point of rudeness. Case in point. A super market checker attempted to collect payment and the customer tersely asked “can’t you see I’m on the phone?”

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