The One Hour Each Week That Will Change Your Life for the Better—Every Time


Note: This article is reprinted from the March 2024 issue of Simplify Magazine.

Self-improvement and personal development are important pursuits. When we become the best versions of ourselves, everybody wins.

In this unending journey, we often overlook the simplest yet most profound practices. It’s easy to get caught up in the latest productivity hacks, self-help seminars, or wellness trends that promise profound changes in our lives. Countless social media ads will promise you the next get-well-quick product. However, the key to a more fulfilling, well-adjusted life isn’t always found in buying more or doing more.

The argument I’d like to make here is that the most important step to experiencing real, lasting, positive life change could be as simple as sitting quietly in a room by yourself.

Blaise Pascal, the renowned French mathematician, physicist, and philosopher, once observed, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

This statement, though centuries old, holds a timeless truth that is particularly relevant in today’s fast-paced, always-connected world. I have known this truth to ring true in my life over and over again—and you will too.

The practice of solitude, of spending time alone with our thoughts without distractions, is a powerful tool for mental health and personal growth.

How I Learned the Importance of Solitude

I had many wonderful classes and assignments during my college years, but perhaps none had a more lasting impact on me than an assignment given to us during a personal development class taught by a thin, white-haired gentleman named Professor Johnson. Starting the first week of our eight-week class, we were given the requirement to sit quietly in a room, all alone, for one hour each week and submit a paper every Friday about our experience.

“Solitude,” Professor Johnson said, “is where you will find life.”

To this day, 30 years later, I can picture the room where I completed this assignment each week—the couch, the carpet, the lamp, even the hangings on the wall are seared into my memory. More important than the physical surroundings were the life lessons I learned about myself. This “one hour of solitude” practice forever altered the trajectory of my life.

Unlike meditation, prayer, or reading, solitude, as it was defined (and assigned) to us, involves sitting alone with no agenda. Our assignment was specific: no reading material, no music, no prayer list, no personal agenda or work problem that you were going to figure out. The practice was about allowing your mind the freedom to wander, to explore your heart, your soul, your motivations, and the path you were taking.

The Mental Health Benefits of Solitude

In solitude, we find a simple but profound way to support our mental health. Stepping away from the daily hustle, from the expectations tied to our roles at work, home, or social circles, we give ourselves permission to evaluate our deepest selves.

This quiet hour is not about isolation. It’s about choosing to pause, to reflect, and to know ourselves better.

It’s important to recognize the difference between solitude and loneliness. While loneliness can lead to feelings of disconnection and has been linked to depression, solitude is a chosen state of being alone that allows us to reconnect with ourselves in a positive and healing way.

Because of this, we can see why studies have shown that time alone can decrease anxiety, reduce stress and depressive thoughts. It can also boost our creativity and productivity, and help us regulate our emotions.

But the personal benefits don’t end there. This one hour each week can change your life in positive ways every time.

More Benefits of Solitude

Hans Margolius once said this: “Only in quiet waters do things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.”

This quiet reflection is not just about seeing ourselves more clearly; it’s about understanding our place in the world and our path forward.

Solitude offers a unique space where the influence and expectations of others are momentarily lifted from our shoulders. In this sacred hour, the voices that guide us are silenced, save for one: our own. It’s here that we can truly hear our heart’s voice. This voice, often drowned out by the demands and noise of everyday life, can offer insights into our deepest desires, fears, and joys.

Solitude brings with it a sense of rest and refreshment that is hard to find elsewhere. It’s a pause in our all-too-busy lives, a break in our constant doing, allowing us to simply be. This rest is not just physical but deeply mental, emotional, and spiritual. It rejuvenates the soul and recharges the spirit, preparing us for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Interestingly, one of the most liberating aspects of solitude is the realization that others can indeed live without us, at least for a while. This realization can be both humbling and freeing, reminding us that the world does not rest on our shoulders. We learn to let go of the need to control, manage, and be involved in everything around us. It teaches us to trust others.

Solitude also provides a valuable perspective on our past and opportunity to chart our future. With the distractions of daily life set aside, we can reflect more deeply on our experiences, learning from our mistakes and celebrating our victories.

Lastly, I have found the practice of solitude equips us with greater patience for others. When we understand ourselves better and feel more at peace with who we are, we naturally extend this grace to those around us. Our interactions become kinder, more empathetic, and more meaningful. We learn to listen and not just to respond but to understand, recognizing the value of different perspectives and the beauty of human connection.

In essence, the practice of solitude is a powerful antidote to the frenetic pace of modern life. It offers a sanctuary for the soul, a place where we can find clarity, peace, and a renewed sense of purpose. By embracing this practice, we open ourselves to a world of self-discovery and transformation, becoming better versions of ourselves for our own sake and for the sake of those around us.

Implementing the Practice of Solitude

Incorporating solitude into your life requires intentionality and patience. Here are some steps to help you begin:

1. Be intentional

Schedule a specific time for solitude, just as you would for any other important activity. This helps ensure that you won’t be easily distracted or tempted to skip it.

2. Start small

If an hour seems daunting, begin with 15 to 20 minutes and gradually increase the time, perhaps adding 5 to 10 minutes every week. This can make the practice more manageable and less intimidating.

3. Find a calm location

Your surroundings will make a big difference. Avoid “fast-paced” locations such as offices, kitchens, or any place that reminds you of work. Also keep in mind that you’ll find solitude more fulfilling if your space is uncluttered.

4. No agenda

Resist the urge to bring books, music, or any other form of entertainment or distraction into your solitude. The goal is to be alone with your thoughts.

5. Expect restlessness

It’s normal for your mind to race with thoughts initially. With time, you’ll find that your thoughts begin to slow down, allowing deeper reflection. As a matter of fact, you’ll notice that after every 15-minute increment your mind will slow down a bit more.

6. If it helps, keep a notepad nearby

Having a piece of paper and a pen handy can be useful for jotting down pressing to-do items that come to mind. Often, just writing down the task on a sheet of paper allows your mind to release it.

7. Embrace whatever comes

There are no right or wrong thoughts during solitude. As a matter of fact, if certain thoughts keep popping up over and over again, it might be a sign this is a thought worth exploring further.

8. Don’t quit just because you don’t like what you find

The journey into our heart is not always a pretty one. Sometimes when we start pulling back the layers of our heart and realize our deepest motivations, we don’t like what we see. This can be difficult for some and cause even more to stop altogether. But don’t. A richer, fuller life is just around the corner.

9. Practice makes perfect

Like any skill, solitude gets easier with practice. Don’t be discouraged by initial discomfort, perceived lack of productivity, or even having to give up early as you first begin.

Reflecting on my own journey, I can say that the periods in my life of greatest personal growth have coincided with regular practice of solitude. Conversely, the times of confusion and lack of direction often align with neglecting this discipline. It’s a stark reminder to me of the transformative power of simply sitting alone with one’s thoughts. And why it is a discipline and practice I continue to promote even 30 years after having it assigned to me.

If you try it, you will discover just as I did: It is one hour, each week, that will change your life for the better every time.


On March 01, we released Issue #028 of Simplify Magazine. The theme of this issue is Mental Health—an incredibly important topic for everyone. The issue includes nine in-depth articles from experts in the field.

Simplify Magazine is one of the most important things I do. You can join 250,000 subscribers of the digital magazine by purchasing a lifetime subscription (nothing more to pay, ever) for $20 (USD).

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