As a result, I’ve been literally dreaming of being in isolated places: swimming in the sea, walking in mountains, running across fields – anywhere I am alone, uncontactable, untouchable.
That is, says Alister Gray, mindfulness coach and founder of Mindful Talent, a common feeling post-lockdown. “We have spent so much time in a confined space surrounded by situations and experiences pressed upon us and little time to breathe or soothe ourselves, so it’s only natural that we will feel sensations of anxiety and claustrophobia emerging at points,” he says.
“When our freedom and independence feel threatened, our limbic system is triggered [the part of our brain that regulates our emotions], so yes, spending too much time with others can have an impact on us emotionally.”
We know from a multitude of studies that loneliness is terrible for the soul, our health, even our life expectancy. Many of us are afraid of being lonely. But choosing solitude is different.
Jack Fong, a sociologist at California State Polytechnic University, says practising solitude is as essential for our mental health as going to the gym is for our physical health. Pre-Covid, he would go on solo camping trips at least once a month.
“Going camping on your own provides a decompression and decentralisation from all of the demands made of you by your career and life,” he says. “It can provide a space to take deep inventory without all of the stimuli going on that threaten to overwhelm us. It’s really good for your brain to have that kind of break.”
That’s exactly it: I was feeling overwhelmed. So as soon as travel restrictions eased, I started looking for somewhere to go away. Not a family holiday, but a night on my own, away from as many people as possible.