A happy life must be to a great extent a quiet life, for it is only in an atmosphere of quiet that true joy dare live. - Bertrand Russell
Electronic devices now take away all our downtime, all our silent moments, and replace them with a dull hum of distraction. We are losing the ability to be quiet, not verbally, as we are more silent than ever staring at phones. We have lost the silence of the mind.
How long can you sit in stillness before your phone pings a notification or Facebook calls you to do a quick check? This is just the new way of things and perhaps it doesn’t matter.
But there are many scientifically proven benefits to silence. Silent meditation improves concentration. Silence in classrooms improves learning. While studying the effect music has on the body, cardiologist, Luciano Bernardi, found two-minute silent pauses proved far more relaxing than relaxing music. Duke University regenerative biologist, Imke Kirste found that two hours of silence per day prompted cell development in the hippocampus.
If the winter months begin to grind you down, might we suggest a moment of real silence. You could take up two hours of daily meditation, or you could do something much more simple like turn off phone notifications and the radio during the drive home.
No matter how you choose to incorporate silence into your day, here are some of the expected effects:
You’ll notice the world around you: Silence helps turn off the ego for a moment and refocuses that inward energy back out into observing the world. If you decide to turn off the car radio, chances are you’ll see things on the drive you have never before noticed.
You’ll be alone with your emotions: It’s no secret we turn the radio and TV on for “company,” but why do we feel we need a noisy background friend? Because being alone makes us sad or frightened. Maybe it’s time to spend a moment with those feelings and consider why you’re not comfortable with just Me, Myself and I.
You’ll focus on what matters: It’s true. Quiet can stir up the silt and muck we’ve let settle. Not just the emotional residue of loneliness mentioned above, but also the nagging dreams and problems we’re “too busy” to deal with right now. But it isn’t necessarily negative. Quiet mindfulness can help gratitude surface too. If you are quiet enough outside, you might find yourself grateful for the sunshine or the way that spider web catches the rain.
You’ll settle into your body: Much of the science around silence involves the physiological effects of quiet time on the body. And guess what? It’s all positive. Your heart rate lowers, blood pressure drops, and neural pathways of relaxation and deeper sensory connection fire up as others power down. Take a moment to grow still and enjoy the effects it has on your body.
So the next time you reach for your phone to check Instagram, how about you grab your tea cup instead, sit back and breathe in the silence. Give yourself 10 minutes. You’re not wasting time. You’re taking back a time honored tradition of reticence.