What this blog is about
My mission is to live to my full potential–simply and naturally–and to help others do the same. Most of my work happens over at my main home online, jacquelinesmith.com, but Smart Solitude also plays a huge role in my life and work. Solitude is a tool I use to become increasingly creative, healthy, and sharp. This blog exists to start a movement of people who use smart solitude to help them live daringly. Welcome! I’m excited to hear from you.
What is solitude?
Solitude is the practice of regularly spending time by yourself, without distraction. In solitude, we enjoy being alone so we can tap into a deep level of thought and feeling not typically experienced in everyday life with others.
Solitude can be both passive and highly active (highly active when we apply our minds to finding solutions to a tough problem, passive when enjoying the view on a walk or letting thoughts flow without controlling their direction). Whether active or passive, solitude requires sufficient time to settle in and hear yourself think your most brilliant thoughts, without worry of being interrupted by others.
People often mistakenly conflate solitude and loneliness. They are actually quite different. Hara Estroff Marano puts it well:
Loneliness is a negative state, marked by a sense of isolation. One feels that something is missing…Solitude is the state of being alone without being lonely. It is a positive and constructive state of engagement with oneself. Solitude is desirable, a state of being alone where you provide yourself wonderful and sufficient company. Source
Others might wonder how solitude differs from meditation. I have meditation training; in my experience, meditation typically involves focusing the mind on an image, mantra, or calming idea while following and directing the breath. Meditation and solitude share similar goals, but meditation can intimidate some and does not suit everyone’s demeanor or stage in life. Solitude is a broader, simpler concept wherein the emphasis lies in unplugging from today’s constant and overwhelming stream of social connectivity to use yourself as your greatest resource for new ideas, health, and problem-solving.
In this blog, I’ll profile wildly successful people who credit spending time by themselves with creating success in business and at home.
What is the “well-designed” part?
It is possible to spend time alone and not get much out of it. Creating well-designed solitude involves choosing the best time, place, and structure tailored to you. It also involves using discipline, cultivating good habits, and being able to come in and go out of it smoothly. This is the part I love to teach. When practiced regularly and well, solitude will show you the best sides of yourself and help you realize what distinguishes you from the pack.
I grew up on a small farm in Iowa where I spent most of the time playing the piano, reading books, and folding my brothers’ laundry.
I grew up some more at Luther College, the years that gave me my best friends and a taste for living outside the States.
After college, I joined Jesuit Volunteers International and was sent to Majuro, Marshall Islands for two years. There I taught English, ate a lot of pandanus, and fell in love with silent retreats.
By the time I returned to the U.S. I was infatuated with public health and yoga. These interests led me to move to San Francisco to work with remarkable researchers at the UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine.
I also met my future husband, Elliot, during this time. In 2009, we married and moved to Ann Arbor where I earned my masters degree in Health Behavior and Health Education at the University of Michigan’s exceptional School of Public Health. Along the way, I temporarily relocated to Chennai, India to study yoga with the best in the world and then returned to Ann Arbor to the best job a graduate student can ask for: teaching undergrads.
In May 2011, with M.P.H. in tow, Elliot and I drove back to the Bay Area and decided to call a beautiful little spot in Oakland home.
In all of these places and throughout all of these events, I have used quiet time away from others to reflect, enjoy the moment at hand, and plan for an extraordinary future. My training in public health, motivational interviewing, and yoga prepared me to guide others to live healthily, simply and naturally.
I offer experienced, confidential guidance in learning how to spend time alone well, whether you want to be more creative, healthier, solve your problems faster, or for another reason. If you’re interested in working one-on-one with me, please email me at the address below.