Alone. Loneliness. Lonesome. Solitary. Solitude. Although similar, each of these experiences and feelings are different. I’ve known them all. We experience them as we grow up. And you may prefer one over the other.

Solitude is now my preferred description of a state of peace, grounding, security, equanimity, inspiration, insight, and creativity. I get up earlier than my husband to protect and experience the nourishment of my solitude. But I didn’t always appreciate my solitude.

During my young adult years, I craved a social life. I pursued friendships, relationships, organizations, groups, and jobs all in the quest to not be alone. I kept journals then and pages were filled with my yearning to belong, to have a community, to have someone to talk to who understood me.

Maybe you’ve been there or are there now. Loneliness can wrap you in a shroud of dark isolation and you begin to wonder what is wrong with you. Why can’t you have friends? Why don’t people invite you out? Why does every relationship you have crash and burn?

But instead of taking time to rest in the healing waters of solitude you join a new group, or go to a new bar, to find new friends and start a new relationship. Now, with social media, you don’t even have to go out. You can explore dating apps, online communities, or join forums so your time is always filled up.

Sooner or later, though you realize you remain a solitary person, you remain your own unique self. And this unique self is a universe in itself. You can be your own best friend.

Start a journal, express not only feelings of loneliness, but describe the beauty of the golden-red evening light reflecting on buildings as the sun sets. Or if you like to talk, make a game of recording a story every day about people or experiences you observed.

Or maybe you like colors and drawing. Or you’ve always loved the sound of a wooden flute or harmonica. Or physical movement makes you feel alive, you can run through the park or you can dance in your living room. In your solitude, you discover your power, your beauty, your unique gifts.

Unfortunately, it took me decades to recognize and use the rewards of solitude to find wholeness and happiness with myself. But I did and you can too.