Well-being is about mind, body, and spirit – or some say mind, body, and emotions. This post is about spirit, with three points.
1. Attitude is everything
Notes from people who’ve been there themselves –
- Astronaut Scott Kelly and Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield
- In solitary confinement for 27 years. (No, not in Canada.)
- How a nuclear submarine officer learned to live in tight quarters.
- Essay from a solo sailor – like astronauts, solo sailors know about living alone.
- Solitude as inner journey
There are actual immunological reasons to cultivate happiness, joy, awe, wonder (short and sensible article). Try a “happiness library” or a shared Spotify account of music that celebrates joy, courage, achievement. (I’d include the blues song “Strawberry Jam”; see if you can find it.)
A few people who are quite comfortable living alone have written about this being different: they’re feeling frighteningly invisible. Touch (see below) helps with that; just as important is to manifest your existence to others. We need to be seen, at least metaphorically. Helping is a way to have an effect in the world, and thanks to the ‘net there are ways to do that even now. It also puts some beacons in the murky future to steer by, and gives you accomplishments as milestones. An hour a week on a help line? It does matter.
Some ways to contain waves of worry here. And don’t be too stubborn to reach out when you want to.
2. Own your time
Often one wished for more free time, but what we have now is uncomfortable – “A sustained, long-run lockdown means that a vast stretch of undifferentiated time is unfurling ahead of us, stripped bare of the usual divisions and markers.”
We need milestones: “We want to feel time is precious; we don’t want to write it off. We don’t want to lose a summer that we’ll never get back. We don’t want to do time; we don’t want to be inside. We want to live.” [source, a thoughtful article]
So live! Own your life, even now: create your own milestones –
- Make the effort to make memories – create a rich subjective time. “[D]istinct events and experiences … stretch out the temporal landscape.” [source]
- Put a fixed point in your day – a sit-down lunch, blues at 8pm, 5 minutes screaming into a pillow, whatever: something you want and decide on and will look forward to.
- Try one of the things you’ve never had time for. Time is the one renewable resource we all have; don’t let it slip through your fingers. This too is life: what will you do with it? Whether it’s building a puppet theatre or playing recorder or saying hello in a dozen languages or making papier mache animals, you can do it – and when you have, you’ll feel good and want to do another.
3. The importance of touch
Touch is really important to well-being. For those of us living alone, and for all of us who now aren’t touching many things out in the world, this is a significant loss even if we’re not directly aware of its effects.
- The challenges of isolating (G&M article)
- Short overview of the importance of touch. Neuroscientist David Lindon writes that our skin is a social organ that cultivates cooperation, improves health and enhances development.
- From another article: “Touch makes your brain grow…. Touch is how we become part of this human community.” Touch “let me know that I existed, that I was here.” [source]
What to do with that knowledge? Well, it’s a wonderful fact that our brains don’t distinguish clearly between experience and memory.
- Take a few minutes to remember – the feeling of being hand-in-hand with another person, the hugs you’ve had, running your fingers along rough bark or soft pine needles, the wind on your arms and the sun on your face, petting a dog’s head or wrestling a snowsuit onto a squirming child, cuddling and dancing, turning a key in a lock or leaning against a heavy door, the weight of a teacup or the warmth of a sweater.
- Pull up your touch memories every day – you have them, and they will help in the now.
You can add new touch experiences, even now.
- Massage your feet, noticing how it feels in your foot and in your hands. Rest your cheek against a windowpane and experience its texture. Close your eyes and feel a sheet of paper and a piece of wood: can you tell the difference? What is the difference? What are the fabric textures in your closet?
- If you can get outdoors, try short barefoot walks. (In the city, choose your place and watch for glass!) You too may discover “the small joy of finding a dandelion stalk caught between the toes … touching rocks and roots, just feels good.”
Mental imagery works with photographs too.
- In this gallery of outstanding wildlife shots, imagine stroking the fur of the arctic fox, touching the wrinkled orangutan cheek, feeling the hard scales of the pangolin, shaking hands with the mountain gorilla, being explored by the elephant’s trunk.
And for off-the-wall inspiration, here’s an inventive wood-worker’s creation, Proud Parent. The video is 16min and it’s a giggle – I think you won’t count it as lost time!
A quote I’m finding very helpful –
“Inspiration and small pleasures can hide in plain sight, patiently waiting for a keen co-conspirator to spring them loose.” – Jez Burrows, Dictionary Stories