First-Year Award Winner
Today’s media depicts the narrative that social isolation is harmful to one’s mental health. The use of solitary confinement in the prison system, and the representation of this correctional method in the media, has forced society to draw the conclusion that it is unhealthy to spend time alone. As evidenced by stories like Chris McCandless’ in Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, even with the negative connotation attached to reclusion, it is still humanity’s instinct to retreat to the wilderness when society becomes too overwhelming. This research paper examines the desire to be alone, the desire to spend time in nature and the way to reap the benefits of social isolation. Stephan Kaplan’s Attention Restoration Theory provided a foundation to make the correlation between elective reclusion in nature and the functionality of one’s cognitive and executive functioning skills. Although it is not widely accepted, social isolation in a non-urban setting provides the needed replenishment time of the hormones that are used for directed attention. This act reduces one’s social anxieties and negative emotions, increases a better sense of self, and curates a ‘clean slate’ effect allowing for the reintegration into an overwhelming social experience more manageable. This phenomenon is rarely appreciated, and too commonly are people stigmatized for favoring alone time, even though elective reclusion in a natural environment is extremely beneficial.
Harris, Ella, "Don’t Listen to the Media: It’s Okay to Isolate Yourself" (2017). 2017 Claremont Colleges Library Undergraduate Research Award. 1.