What do zombies and post-apocalyptic fantasies have to do with needing a little down time and quiet?
There is so much noise in our world. There is the noise of traffic, and lawn mowers, the noise of cell phones, microwave ovens, the buzz of every appliance in a house. There are other peoples’ conversations, streaming videos and music; everywhere you go… noise, noise, noise! There is so much noise around us, and we have grown so accustomed to it that most of us don’t even balk at the fact that in the States we are hard pressed to find a restaurant or bar where we can understand our table mates without knowing how to read lips.
In addition to sound-pollution there is visual noise. We are surrounded by screens: computers, TVs, tablets, cell phones, screens on billboards and on buildings, screens at gas station pumps. It is hard to enter a business now without being bombarded by visual and auditory noise.
There is not much that we can do about all this noise. No wonder we gravitate toward stories of zombie apocalypses, pandemics and the end of the world.
At the end of the day we are just Homo Sapiens desperate to sit quietly in front of a fire and let ours brain rest.
click to tweet
Ever wonder why we find end-of-days themes so appealing? I am convinced part of it stems from our deep need for solitude, quiet and peace. At the end of the day we are just Homo Sapiens desperate to sit quietly in front of a fire and let ours brain rest. Behind every techie is a person who needs, and would thrive on, some down time.
The relatively new problem we are running into is that many people now get anxious when the noise stops. They don’t know how to handle time that isn’t filled with a screen or man-made sounds. When I ask clients and patients to practice sitting in silence, I usually get this terrified look, which means “What? What do you mean silence? I can’t do that! I can’t just sit and do nothing!” It takes a bit of coaxing to convince them that not only are they capable of sitting quietly for two minutes, but that doing nothing is both okay and beneficial.
Make Time to Do Nothing
Without fail, every person I have ever assigned the silence protocol to, which is everyone I work with, has come back and thanked me. Learning to sit quietly, to stare into space and cultivate real, quiet and alone time is extraordinarily beneficial. People are amazed initially at how hard it is to sit for a couple minutes. Then they are surprised to find out how much effort is required to get their mind to slow down. Finally, they are overcome by the relief and peace that this simple exercise provides. There is no need for an international pandemic to quiet the world, one only needs to make time to do nothing.
Making time requires anywhere from 30 seconds to as long as you want. I recommend starting with 30 seconds and building up your “quiet” tolerance from there. Personally, I would encourage you to stare into space and daydream, but you can also practice deep breathing, visualizations or positive self-statements. You can build time in your schedule to do this, or you can use the time that is available to you such as turning off your car radio at a red light and sitting in silence, or leaving your cell phone in your pocket during a solo-elevator ride.
Life doesn't have to fluctuate through huge extremes; we don't need to fantasize about apocalypses to achieve peace and quiet in our present lives. What is required, however, is a bit of self-awareness, some willingness to carve out time, and patience as we practice letting go of the frantic pace we have set for ourselves.
This article was originally published at Life in Focus. Reprinted with permission from the author.