Loneliness versus Solitude: How to Tell the Difference


This post explores the difference between solitude (intentionally spending time alone) and loneliness (feeling and being emotionally disconnected from others).

It’s widely believed that we are shaped to live in community with others because it gives us a sense of belonging. But to connect with others in meaningful and healthy ways requires knowing yourself well. Developing such self-awareness requires self-reflection. And self-reflection is best done when you’re alone.

What is the difference between solitude and loneliness?

The answer depends on how you view and experience the two concepts. For example, as an INFJ personality and social introvert, I value solitude. I relish the freedom of spending time alone. It’s a precious time to process life and to recharge my energy levels. In fact, I function better with regular doses of solitude, particularly after social engagements.

In contrast, loneliness relates to feeling dissatisfied, uncomfortable, and even sad when spending time alone. A 2018 study shows that loneliness is a prevalent, global challenge which has been linked to multiple chronic conditions such as heart disease, hypertension, and metabolic disorders.

Loneliness is also considered a major predictor of psychological problems including depression, anxiety, and psychological distress.

I wonder if this psychological distress can be eased if we better understand how to spend time by ourselves?

What do loneliness and solitude have to do with midlife?

Research describes solitude as a developmental milestone, similar to emotional maturity. That’s because when you extract yourself from social and physical contexts, it leaves space for self-examination. You have a chance to re-conceptualise your sense of self. Over time, you’ve evolved and grown. Your views and beliefs have been tested and may have shifted. Spending time alone to reflect these shifts can help you notice your growth.

One research article poses a few useful questions to explore solitude in a useful way:

  • What are you doing during your time spent in solitude?
  • Are you spending your alone time in a constructive way?
  • Are you using solitude as a way of hiding out even though you want to engage socially?
  • Is there some kind of personal development happening during the time you spend alone?

Solitude offers several benefits:

  1. You engage in intrinsically motivated activities
  2. You spend time creatively
  3. You use the time for personal transformation
  4. It’s a time focused on spiritual growth, such as prayer, meditation, or bible study.

Ultimately, how you view and respond to the these concepts can lead to different outcomes. It can lead to anxiety and a sense of social disconnection that lead to feelings of loneliness. Or, it can be a valuable opportunity for growth and renewal in a major life transition such as midlife.

If you found this post helpful, you may enjoy a related article that offers ten self-care practices to help you re-set in between busy projects.

Or, if you’re seeking ways to build healthy friendships, you may enjoy Frientimacy by Shasta Nelson, who offers a refreshing view on ways to develop fulfilling relationships.


Please note, the content shared in this article is for informational purposes and general use only. It’s not a substitute for professional healthcare. Should you require support with specific health issues, please consult your nearest healthcare professional.


  • Hipson et al. (2021). Examining the language of solitude versus loneliness in tweets. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. https://doi.org/:10.1177/0265407521998460
  • Knafo, D. (2012). Alone together: solitude and the creative encounter in art and psychoanalysis. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 22(1), 54-71. https://doi.org/10.1080/10481885.2012.646605

Related Posts

One thought on “Loneliness versus Solitude: How to Tell the Difference

Leave a Reply