The Value Of Silence In A World That's Always On
When is the last time you experienced true silence? In today’s world, we often use downtime in the car, waiting in line, or at home to consume more information – we look at email, peruse social media, or listen to a music or a podcast.
In the same vein, I have worked with clients who are accustomed to switching on the TV as soon as they get home to have some entertainment playing in the background as they go about their routine.
There is nothing wrong with consuming information. However, it’s important to consider how a constant influx of information influences your ability to pay attention to what’s most important.
As Herbert Simon aptly says,
“A wealth of information means a poverty of attention.”
When we are constantly looking outside ourselves for entertainment, we have little time to process our experiences and rest in the present moment.
A regular practice of silence – though often uncomfortable at first – allows your mind settle and improves your ability to pay attention.
Here are some simple ways to grow more comfortable with silence and to incorporate more silence into your daily routine.
Bring awareness to patterns: Start by noticing when you reach for distractions or entertainment to avoid silence. Bring curiosity rather than judgment to your existing patterns. You don’t have to make changes right away – the practice of awareness gives you the power to do things differently when you are ready.
Drive in silence: Notice how it feels to turn off the radio, put down your phone, and fully focus on driving. Orienting toward multiple inputs (the traffic, the music, and the cell phone) can be exhausting for your mind. Practice driving in silence and using your five senses to tune into your surroundings as you drive.
Eat in silence: Enjoy a meal by yourself without external entertainment. Engage with the process of eating, tuning into your five senses. Eating in silence can rejuvenate the mind and body and make mealtime more enjoyable.
Spend time in nature: Spending time in nature (especially without electronics) can be extremely rejuvenating for the mind and body. Stephen Kaplan’s “Attention Restoration Theory” demonstrates that spending time in nature, or even gazing at photographs of nature, restores our ability to pay attention.
Disengage from technology: Practice a daily “digital detox” for 15-75 minutes a day. This short rejuvenating break from screens and audio content will allow you to fully connect with the people and the environment around you. (Hint: Try making family mealtime a no-tech zone.)
Practice mindfulness meditation: A daily mindfulness meditation practice offers the space to practice returning to the present moment. Even if you use guided meditations and/or instrumental music, the safe container for self-exploration can be supportive and restorative for your mind and body.
Enjoy your time in silence!