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Me-time and the route to self-discovery

Socialising is a good thing. Meeting new people, engaging in a conversation, sharing ideas, discussing opinions is what takes a society forward. A research conducted by the University of Texas, Social Relationships and Health: A Flashpoint for Health Policy reveals that interacting with people is not just essential but critical to our psychological wellbeing as well. However, circa 2019, where interactions and social bonding usually take place on social media, the concept of social mingling is getting increasingly layered. Today, we live in a world where our lives are like an open book visible to anyone with a hand-held device. And we seem to be loving all the attention too. But as we are connecting with others, adding more followers to our social media accounts, we are moving away from our own selves.

Our psychological wellbeing hinges on the idea of ‘self’ rather than mingling with others. The fascination with social media interaction is so strong that it seems to have surpassed the need for me-time. We interact with others, but quite rarely listen to our own inner voice, understand our desires or realise our own worth—an imbalance that challenges our true happiness and wellbeing.

One way to restore this balance between our outer and inner worlds is quality me-time without any external distractions. Me-time doesn’t mean taking a day off from work, pursuing a hobby or spending time with family and friends. Me-time means getting in touch with yourself. It is about consciously slowing down the pace of life, disconnecting from the world, and turning electronic gadgets off, becoming aware of your thoughts and emotions.

Unfortunately, not many of us are used to the idea of me-time. As Dr Ester Schaler Buchholz, a psychology professor at New York University writes in her book The Call of Solitude: Alone Time in A World Of Attachment: “Nature, culture, and social training have taught us to be afraid or feel helpless when we are alone. As powerful as these lessons have been, desires for alone-time persist, and often we fear what we wish for the most.” We often misconstrue solitude or me-time with loneliness, and hence become wary of the idea.

Solitude and loneliness may seem similar at first, but they are two different experiences. Dr Buchholz defines loneliness as a state of mind that is accompanied by a sense of isolation. Unable to belong or fit in, we could feel lonely even if we’re surrounded by hundreds of people. On the other hand, solitude is a choice that we make to unclutter our mind. The purpose of solitude is to actively engage with oneself to find joy and satisfaction in one’s own company.

If we learn to overcome our fear of loneliness and embrace me-time, we can rediscover ourselves and heal the mind and body holistically. An article published by the Michigan State University lists the benefits of spending time alone: “Freedom increases with the ability to engage in desired activities; creativity strengthens through using the imagination, discovering self-transformation and developing new thought patterns; intimacy increases by becoming more self-sufficient, pursuing passions and maintaining an awareness of strong relationships with others; spirituality grows when given the space and freedom to question one’s place in the universe, personal thoughts and desires.”

Given the long list of benefits that come with solitude, Soulveda explores different ways to find me-time to reap its rewards for healing spiritually.

“And the way to survive, right off the bat, is to learn to accept yourself for who you are and see yourself as a building under construction”

Be idle in the mind

We live in anxious times where we have to be on our toes all day. So, the idea of consciously ‘pausing’ our lives to find some me-time may sound undoable to many. Nonetheless, it needs to be done. But how? Calming the chattering mind is not nearly easy. But, consciously tuning out from the external world to focus inwards gets you there. Though it might sound like a tremendous waste of time to some, human-potential coach Sanket Pai in his book The winning you: Master Your Focus and Avoid Distractions writes: “All successful people including business tycoons, musicians, poets, writers and sportspersons have attributed their success to their habit of being idle.”

The great mathematician and physicist Newton, for instance, discovered the concept of gravity only when he was sitting idle under an apple tree. Acclaimed composer Mozart often got his musical ideas while taking a stroll after a sumptuous meal. And physicist Niels Bohr discovered the atom’s structure whilst half-asleep—he literally dreamt the atom with a nucleus at the centre and electrons spinning around it. Perhaps, doing nothing may have its benefits, after all.

Be loyal to a self-care routine

No matter how tight your daily schedule is, find time for a non-negotiable self-care routine while balancing work and life. Add self-care to your calendar like all other important tasks and activities. You could even set an alarm to drink water, take a walk, and sit idle for self-reflection. Finding such moments every day will not only heal your body but also the mind.

Have a conversation with yourself

As social beings, we engage in conversations with others every day. But the idea of talking to ourselves could seem abnormal to some. Yet, it is one of the most powerful ways to discover ourselves and our innate nature.

In the talk-show London Real, Hindu priest Dandapani explains that having a conversation with ourselves is no different from initiating a conversation with a stranger. Initially, the conversation could linger on trivia—our day-to-day activities, work or the weather. But as the conversation goes deeper, we grow closer to our conscious mind. “Eventually, you see all the beautiful things about yourself and all the ugly things about yourself. And the way to survive, right off the bat, is to learn to accept yourself for who you are and see yourself as a building under construction,” says Dandapani.

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