Many people are either afraid or reluctant to be alone. While loneliness is associated with poor health, knowing how to utilize the opportunity of being alone properly may lead to improved health, as well as a potential reduction in our global utilization of resources.
Mindfulness can be very beneficial when one is alone. The potential for a health benefit may come from finding greater meaning in and a broader perspective on life, gratitude and enhanced ability to solve problems. Of course general stress reduction is beneficial to health. Mindfulness may contribute to stress reduction even in isolation.
Some individuals still mistakingly associate mindfulness with a religious practice, or a specific religion. While mindfulness can be used in pursuit of spiritual goals, it can be utilized to pursue virtually any goal and is not associated with religious practice.
Richard Alpert, who came to be known as "Ram Dass", was a great proponent of meditation and offered a perspective that was informed by his extensive education in western psychology. Prior to becoming a mindfulness advocate and changing the trajectory of his life, Ram Dass held Ivy League research contracts that extended far beyond the psychedelic research which he and Timothy Leary became known for.
At a point in his life, Richard Alpert was arguably poised to become the next Sigmund Freud. However, among other influences, he saw that the world was headed in a direction that was not sustainable and chose to abandon his western academic pursuits. Alpert's credibility as an elite academic is often overlooked.
Ram Dass offered a broader, more extensive review of mindfulness and meditative practices that widen options for individuals uninterested in sitting meditation or spiritual pursuits. Any activity can become a healthy act of self-reflection, from cleaning to eating, and this broader perspective should be publicized. We need to REBRAND "Mindfulness" to extend it's adoption and allow people around the globe to contribute to it.
Mindfulness can enrich time alone and lead to greater self-efficacy in managing personal health and efficiently managing resources. A broader perspective on mindfulness may help ensure a more sustainable future at both the personal and global levels. It may also provide short-term benefits of greater autonomic balance and immune function. This could make certain individuals more resilient to illnesses of all kinds, including COVID-19.
I cannot leave out the work of Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction. He is a leader in the field and his work is a large part of the foundational literature informing professionals and consumers alike. Those interested in this approach must reference his work.
The first step is to find names that reflect the values of a culture. For example, creating a new name for helping people practice in Italy could be "Strength through Solitude" or "Forza Attraverso la Solitudine".
The second step is to specifically extend the practice into habits and activities that are culturally specific, which are conducive to the practice. Playing music, currently being publicized by quarantined citizens of Italy through social media, is a practice that is suited for mindfulness.
A third strategy could be building the idea that peace and solitude can be found in any private activity one decides to engage in. Again, using Italy as an example, guides to give instruction on how to play music mindfully when alone could be offered online or over tv or radio.
A fourth strategy is to tie the practice toward a goal that is important within a culture. Using mindfulness to make one strong for family or to protect family could help one focus and build more value into the personal practice. The goal need not be be arguably esoteric, such as pursuing enlightenment, as is traditionally thought. A goal as simple as practicing to build the resolve to protect loved ones might be effective.
*The rebranding of exercise is a good example that can be applied to the rebranding of mindfulness. - see article
Perhaps it would be effective to create a global practice that applies mindfulness to hand-washing. But a different name could make this easier to accept and utilize. Washing ones hands is a perfect opportunity for mindfulness. The tactile nature, utilization of water and focusing on sensations could turn hand-washing into a restorative practice that is accessible throughout the day. And values and goals are inherent; slowing-down and cleaning to save lives. People trivialize hand-washing, so applying mindfulness to the practice could be effective at helping people find added benefit in the activity beyond staying clean. The same could be said for general cleaning. Culturally specific names could certainly be applied here to get away from any stigma or misinterpretation that might occur with mention of the work "mindfulness".
The rituals we now take for granted carried greater meaning in ancient times, before the advent of the Scientific Revolution, antibiotics and treated water systems. Not having to pay attention to contamination is relatively new to human beings. The threat of infections is very much taken for granted now, not treated as a common, daily threat the way it used to be. Religious meaning was imbedded in the ritual of cleansing oneself and perhaps this needs to be reintroduced without the stigma of religion.
I mention this not to confuse the point of this article, but to show that the tradition of adding greater value to seemingly menial tasks has long been a strategy of human beings for surviving, increasing a sense of well-being and connecting with a larger sense meaning in life. Adding value, in this case through the rebranding of Mindfulness, may continually motivate habits that maintain disease prevention and even encourage a greater sense of personal growth and well-being. It may also help individuals be able to slow the pace of living and consume less important resources.
Handbook of Mindfulness: Culture, Context, and Social Engagement
The Handbook of Solitude: Psychological Perspectives on Social Isolation, Social Withdrawal, and Being Alone
Mindfulness books by Jon Kabat-Zinn
Journey of Awakening: A Meditator’s Guidebook
WHO Guidelines on Hand Hygiene in Health Care: First Global Patient Safety Challenge Clean Care Is Safer Care - Religious and cultural aspects of hand hygiene
Motivations for Solitude Explain Why Loners Love Being Alone: a new 14-item questionnaire gauges various motivations for seeking solitude.
Neuroscience shows listening to music has kind of the same effect as meditation
Solitude and creative expression