I am a huge, huge, huge believer in the need for pastors (and, in fact, every Christian) to schedule regular intentional solitude or “alone time.” It’s been difficult for me to explain why I feel that this is so important, but now I find a study that clothes my subjective feelings with objective scientific proof.In a survey of solitude studies, Leon Neyfakh of the Boston Globe explains that although many of us don’t feel happy when alone, it results in better thinking, stronger memories, happier moods, boosted creativity, more balanced personalities, and improved friendships. And, apparently, all that is especially true for that most connected and social of breeds – the teenager. Reed Larson, a professor of human development at the University of Illinois, conducted a study on how teenagers react to being alone. His conclusion?
The teenagers weren’t necessarily happier when they were alone; adolescence, after all, can be a particularly tough time to be separated from the group. But Larson found something interesting: On average, the kids in his sample felt better after they spent some time alone than they did before. Furthermore, he found that kids who spent between 25 and 45 percent of their nonclass time alone tended to have more positive emotions over the course of the weeklong study than their more socially active peers, were more successful in school and were less likely to self-report depression.
However, for maximum benefit, the solitude has to be a choice and it’s length must be tailored to each person’s personality.“Time is money” goes the old saying. But if we are spending all our precious time in social networking, digital friendships, and even church activity, then we are going to bankrupt ourselves and ruin our relationships with God and others. And it’s not just science. The Bible also encourages us to believe that if we invest in intentional solitude we will enjoy an immeasurable return (Ps. 46:10; Matt. 14:23).