“Silence is a source of great strength.” – Lao Tzu
Growing up, I remember the admonition to be slow to speak; highlighting the importance on self reflection, processing information and deciding on the best response before attempting to respond. Today, it appears that this particular advice does not hold true. Persons are more inclined to react impulsively and blurt out the first thought that comes to their minds without much consideration of the consequences and ripple effect. Is there merit in being silent?
Research has shown that there are physical health benefits of silence and solitude. When we cultivate silence and solitude, our whole body relaxes, which then leads to physical healing. Life and Wellness Coach, Dennis Buttimer cited, “Relaxation is a primary mechanism for healing, when you are under stress, your body’s natural repair mechanisms are disabled. When you can cultivate silence and stillness, clarity develops in your mind and has a settling effect. When you’re relaxed, your body’s natural repair mechanisms are enabled and you’ll heal faster.”
Additionally, a 2013 research study found that two hours of silence could create new cells in the hippocampus region, a brain area linked to learning, remembering, and emotions. Silence also decreases stress by lowering blood cortisol levels and adrenaline. Furthermore, according to a 2006 study (Trusted Source in Heart), two minutes of silence relieves tension in the body and brain and is more relaxing than listening to music. This was attributed to changes in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.
Silence also promotes psychological and emotional benefits. Silence may help in the following areas:
n Creativity – When allowing thoughts to go where they will, inspiration may bubble up. Solutions to current or long-standing problems may suddenly occur to you, or a workaround or innovative approach may seem more feasible.
n Awareness of self and environment – Once you’re comfortable in your silence, you’ll notice a distinct shift in your ability to be more self-aware. In addition, you can better appreciate the world around you, including your immediate environment.
n Reflection – Silence permits the kind of reflection that is beyond mere introspection. It promotes the ability to connect threads in a seemingly disorganised, disconnected world. After meditating in silence, you may be more motivated to mend significant relationships that have become strained, embark upon a self-improvement program, pursue a more challenging career path, or even promise to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
Here are a few ways to practice being in silence:
1. Stop Talking – We live in a world that makes silence uncomfortable. Sometimes we find ourselves talking just to talk. The easiest way to find silence is stop talking and resist that urge to fill the silence when it happens.
2. Choose Your Words Wisely – Talk with a purpose, accomplish something good with your words. When you do speak say something that inspires, something that makes people laugh, something that shows wisdom, and something that shows love.
“Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools speak because they have to say something.” –Plato
3. Listen – We are all guilty of having conversations in which we are ‘halfway listening’ meaning we take in the overall topic our friend or co-worker may be saying all the while thinking about what we want to say next and when can we jump in. This is another opportunity where we can practice silence and not just being silent with our mouths, but actually listen to the conversation happening at that moment, not tuning the other person out and thinking, “What should I say next?”
4. Don’t React – Silence can be an incredible gift in the midst of conflict. Silence allows you to hear what the other person is saying and reflect on what is really intended and what is really important in the situation. Think about a situation where instead of simply being silent and reflective, you reacted instantly to what was said either with words or a text. Now think about that situation and what would have happened if you had remained silent – maybe the conflict would have simply faded away because it just wasn’t that big of a deal, or maybe you would have left the conversation and come back to it with a more clear mind and more mature thoughts. Silence can save many relationships.
5. Be Mindful – Being mindful may sound complicated but it is actually the opposite, it means simply being in the moment and not thinking about ‘what’s next’. Being mindful is important in being silent because it is a way to turn off the noise in your head.
6. Turn Off The Screens – How many times do we enter our house and the first thing we do is turn on the TV, not because we have to see a show, but because we have to have ‘noise’. Screens of any kind are distractions and interfere immensely with us being able to concentrate whether it is on work, family, or simply just being silent. Our smart phones are the ultimate mindlessness, always there, always connected, always distracting. As much as I participate in social media, I also hop on and hop off, I notice during any period of time I spend on Facebook or Instagram longer than one minute makes my brain feel so cluttered. To note is that while our mouth may be quiet, the room we are in may be quiet, but if there is a screen on, our mind is not quiet. As much as our screens may improve our lives, they also can be unhealthy distractions that have to be kept in check. If you feel like you ‘can’t turn it off’, it is time to turn it off. The gift of silence should be more important than checking Facebook.
7. Breathe – When we concentrate on breathing in and breathing out deeply, instead of what are we going to say next or what do we need to be thinking about, we can truly clear our minds. It is when we are able to simply breathe in and out that we begin to hear our inner voice, our heart, our spirit.
8. Prayer and Meditation – There is a reason monks take a vow of silence, it is to be closer to God.
9. Watch The Sunset – There are not many things more inspiring than a beautiful sunset. Next time you see the sun setting on the horizon and its beauty takes your breath away, stop and watch it in silence. No need to speak, no need to think, no need to take a picture, just observe nature’s masterpiece.
Silence is a gift, appreciate it and use it wisely….