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Under-Appreciating the Benefits of Solitude

Person sitting alone on bench at end of dock in lake during sunset

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Getting lost in our thoughts may improve problem solving, increase creativity, enhance imagination and provide a better sense of self-worth. But in the digital age, with immediate and satisfying input at a finger’s tap, it is possible to be “solitude deprived,” says Cal Newport, a computer science professor at Georgetown University and author of Digital Minimalism

In a recent study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, psychologists asked a group of more than 250 university students to sit and wait in a quiet room without doing anything. Researchers found that the students under-appreciated their enjoyment and engagement of “just thinking” and instead favored technology-driven distractions like internet news-checking. The results suggest an inherent difficulty in accurately assessing how engaging just thinking can be, and may explain why people prefer keeping themselves busy rather than taking a moment for reflection and imagination in their daily lives.

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