Although its value has long been appreciated, silence has fallen out of fashion. Many spiritual traditions, such as Buddhism and Quakerism, have long been recognised it’s value as a way of grounding ourselves and connecting with a deeper inner part. The challenge can be to build this into our lives when there is an extraordinary array of activities available 24/7. However experiencing regular periods of silence is linked with higher levels of wellbeing.
A big culprit to wellbeing can be the noise levels that bombard our daily lives. Research suggests that levels of noise in our physical environment have been steadily increasing through traffic noise, the use of electronic equipment and the decline of green spaces. This led the World Health Authority (WHO) to describe noise pollution as a “modern plague”. Even low level noise, such as the radio or a quiet conversation, are thought to distract attention and reduce motivation.
The power of silence is however not just about reducing physical noise but about the capacity to still the mind. When the mind gets overstimulated, it can get hijacked by different emotional processing systems, taking us away from what we value and consider important. For example, an afternoon gaming may take us away from important people in our lives. In addition, the coming of the digital age has meant traditional boundaries between work and home, leisure and rest are more porous. Rather we are encouraged to cram as much as possible into our lives. Increases in social competitiveness and acquisitiveness has led some to conclude that it is driving us to craziness (see Paul Gilbert, 2018, Living Like Crazy).
Here are a couple of ideas to try out for yourself:-
*Try turning off the radio, mobile or device and just absorb being in the moment.
*Try 2 minutes silence each day, which is thought to be more calming than listening to relaxing music. This could be enjoying a cup of coffee outside in a park or garden.
*Try introducing a relaxation or meditation practice. There are a whole variety of different practices available and for details see the Gethelp website at www.getselfhelp.co.uk. Alternatively you could enrol on a meditation course, a retreat or try an hour’s silence at a local Quaker meeting (these are open to people of faith and non-faith).
*Take time to stop and notice the natural world around you such as listening to the birdsong, the trickle of water or smell of the great outdoors.