How often are you able to sit comfortably in silence with other people? Do you find that you struggle to sit in silence with yourself? Do you constantly need to have some kind of noise to keep you distracted?
We live in an era where there is more noise than ever before. The appropriate term to use would be pollution. It’s excessive, it’s everywhere and it’s addicting. But what exactly do I mean by noise? I mean constantly being occupied with something to do. Whether it be social media, watching YouTube, constantly talking or even just reading the news. We struggle to sit in silence.
In today’s post, I’d like to talk about why silence is so important, why it’s so difficult to do, and how we can learn to become more comfortable sitting in silence. This will not only be valuable for ourselves, but it also allows us to bond more intimately with other people in our life.
Why is silence important?
Some of the immediate benefits that come to my mind include:
- Silence can create mental space
- It allows you to develop self-awareness and reflect
- It can foster creativity and problem-solving
- It aids in relaxation
But how come there are so many benefits that we just don’t seem to acknowledge? It’s probably because we don’t sit in silence enough. Silence can create mental space because when we’re sitting by ourselves (or potentially with someone else) and not speaking, we free up some mental bandwidth that can be used for other purposes.
This links directly to the next point on reflection and inducing self-awareness. Naturally, when we have free time and just stare out the window, for example, our minds tend to reflect on where we are currently. This is incredibly useful when we nudge it in the right direction, as it can help us look back at certain experiences and gain wisdom, or look forward at tasks ahead and find effective ways to tackle them.
The next benefit of silence involves creativity and problem-solving. We often do a lot of subconscious processing when we’re not engaged in an activity, which gives our brain the capacity to think freely and outside of the box. This then allows us to develop certain solutions and innovate beyond what we typically can amidst chatter and noise.
The last point I want to make is a little obvious. Silence aids in relaxation. When we sit in a quiet environment and remain quiet ourselves, it often has a calming effect. This might not necessarily be the case when you’re overthinking or are feeling uncomfortable in the first place. But it definitely does help you stay level-headed and make better sense of what’s going on, which can then relax you.
Why is it so difficult to stay quiet?
As I’ve mentioned already, being quiet is actually a lot harder in this day and age. Firstly, when it comes to personality types, we’ve romanticized the concept of being an extrovert. We consider people who are introverted or shy as being less competent or capable for some reason. I’ll dive into that another day, but a great book recommendation is ‘Quiet’ by Susan Cane.
Secondly, we now have more access than ever before to actually raise our voices (especially digitally). We can constantly gossip, chat, share information, tweet, write blogs, make videos, and create short stories. Social media has essentially created a world of constant ‘noise’.
Lastly, it’s because we’re uncomfortable sitting with our own thoughts. We’re not necessarily conscious of it, but we always find a way to get out of our minds. There are many reasons for that, but it’s definitely something we need to get acquainted with. After all, the quality of our thoughts determines the quality of our life. We’re naturally anxious beings and tend to overthink all the time.
So how do we move forward knowing that it’s quite difficult to stay quiet or sit in silence?
How can we become more comfortable with silence?
We first need to re-frame our thinking around silence, quiet and solitude. It’s not a ‘waste of time’ to let your mind occasionally wander, or to sit down in meditation. It all has real implications on your mental health and your ability to think deeply about problems. So we need to really understand the benefits that come about when we do spend time alone or in silence.
The next thing would be to start small and try it out. When you have a free moment or you’re waiting in a queue, don’t just reach out for your phone and numb your brain. Be mindful of the thoughts that pop in and notice what you start thinking about. You can also allocate specific time (maybe in the morning before you start the day or in the evening before bed) to just sit in quiet.
It can also be helpful to try this with another person that you spend a lot of time with (like a roommate, sibling, or spouse). Sit together without unnecessarily trying to fill in the quiet gaps and notice how you both respond. You might find it to be a strange bonding experience.
Lastly, keep track of the thoughts and ideas that come about in a journal. When you start taking note of your thought process, you get an idea of whether or not you’re in a healthy mental space. Obviously, this will depend on what you write down and your mood at that given point, but if you’re honest with yourself and practise consistently, it will allow you to make sense of your mind and could help you be more comfortable with yourself.
The point I’m trying to make in this post is that there’s a lot of benefit to just being quiet. We all have some form of resistance to sitting in silence, which is not necessarily healthy. It keeps us on our toes and itching to find a distraction or ‘noise’. When we practice sitting in solitude and get more comfortable with our thoughts, we’ll ultimately help ourselves get to a healthier mental space. It’s definitely not going to be easy, but you got this.
“All of humanity’s problems come from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”Blaise Pascal