Learning To Listen To The Silence

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Learning To Listen To The Silence

By ACA Counseling Corner Blog (Originally Posted February 5, 2018)

Most of us have surely noticed that today’s world is a pretty noisy place. From electronic gadgets, to the sounds of traffic, to just listening to the chatter of family, friends and co-workers, much of our day is probably filled with a great deal of sound.

This noise may seem a condition of modern life, but studies have found that purposely adding a little silence to our days may bring a number of benefits.

Adding some quiet can provide not just mental health benefits, but physiological ones as well. Turning off at least some of the noise has been shown to lower blood pressure, boost the body’s immune system and possibly even improve brain function. A recent article cited a 2013 study that found that two hours of silence helped create new brain cells in the areas linked to remembering, emotions and learning.

While most of us might find it hard to find two hours of silence, even two minutes of quiet time was found to relieve tension through positive changes in blood pressure and circulation in the brain.

Being surrounded by non-stop noise often results in feeling tense and uncomfortable, and might lead to a headache. Numerous studies have documented the harmful effects that noise pollution can have on our health and ability to think and concentrate.

Finding more quiet in your day doesn’t mean going to extremes or needing some totally silent environment. It simply requires making a conscious effort to escape from the everyday noise of your life for at least a short period, what professional counselors call mindfulness.

One suggestion is simply to get outdoors and enjoy a quiet walk with no specific purpose except to relax. Yes, there will still be sounds around you, but as you focus on yourself and your walk, they no longer become a primary distraction. Leave your headphones home, too. And if you walk with a companion, just agree to make it a silent journey.

Deep breathing exercises or quite mediation can also add periods of quiet to your life.  Numerous online sites offer instructions for either activity.  Or, just find a quiet corner in your home and settle in with a good book for a half hour.

None of us is ever going to live in a perfectly silent world, but finding a way of quieting at least some of the noise can offer real physical and psychological benefits.

If you would like help with slowing down or finding a healthy rhythm – including times of silence and quiet – please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

The Busier You Are, the More You Need Quiet Time

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The Busier You Are, the More You Need Quiet Time

By Justin Talbot-Zorn and Leigh Marz

Recent studies are showing that taking time for silence restores the nervous system, helps sustain energy, and conditions our minds to be more adaptive and responsive to the complex environments in which so many of us now live, work, and lead. Duke Medical School’s Imke Kirste recently found that silence is associated with the development of new cells in the hippocampus, the key brain region associated with learning and memory. Physician Luciano Bernardi found that two-minutes of silence inserted between musical pieces proved more stabilizing to cardiovascular and respiratory systems than even the music categorized as “relaxing.” And a 2013 study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, based on a survey of 43,000 workers, concluded that the disadvantages of noise and distraction associated with open office plans outweighed anticipated, but still unproven, benefits like increasing morale and productivity boosts from unplanned interactions…

Even incredibly busy people can cultivate periods of sustained quiet time. Here are four practical ideas:

1) Punctuate meetings with five minutes of quiet time. If you’re able to close the office door, retreat to a park bench, or find another quiet hideaway, it’s possible to hit reset by engaging in a silent practice of meditation or reflection.

2) Take a silent afternoon in nature. You need not be a rugged outdoors type to ditch the phone and go for a simple two-or-three-hour jaunt in nature. In our own experience and those of many of our clients, immersion in nature can be the clearest option for improving creative thinking capacities. Henry David Thoreau went to the woods for a reason.

3) Go on a media fast. Turn off your email for several hours or even a full day, or try “fasting” from news and entertainment. While there may still be plenty of noise around—family, conversation, city sounds—you can enjoy real benefits by resting the parts of your mind associated with unending work obligations and tracking social media or current events…

For the full article, check out the HBR site.

If you would like help cultivating silence and quiet to reduce some of your stress, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or counselor.

Being Alone Is Scary, and a Great Use of Your Time

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Being Alone Is Scary, and a Great Use of Your Time

Why Creating Quiet Space for Yourself Is Crucial to Your Well-Being

By Brent Flory

When I was younger I used to think that extroverts liked people, and that introverts disliked people. Since I mostly enjoyed people and didn’t want to be known as antisocial, I quickly learned to identify myself as an extrovert.

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It wasn’t until I was in college that I learned that my definitions of extrovert and introvert were way off. It isn’t about whether or not you like your fellow human beings, it’s all about how you get energized. This understanding gave me the confidence to begin to admit that was I an introvert because I desperately need time alone to recharge my batteries.

Did you know that whether or not you identify as an extrovert or introvert that time alone is vital for you? I doubt many people would strongly disagree with that idea on the surface.But how often do you intentionally spend a chunk of time being away from others in a quiet place?

When taken to the extreme, noise pollution can affect your sleep, your heart, your mental health, and your school, work, and social performance. However, most of us don’t mind noise when it isn’t overwhelming. Rather, many of us crave noise and seek to surround ourselves with it.

Do you constantly listen to music in the car, or when you are walking? Do you have the TV on all the time, even if you aren’t watching what’s on it? Are you checking your phone incessantly for new emails, messages, or social media updates?

What drives us to envelope ourselves with sound and stimulation at all times? Is it really that you need constant noise, or are you trying to avoid silence?

I think for many of us, it’s the latter. We avoid spending much time being alone. After all, we knowsolitary confinement can cause people great psychological harm. Yet I don’t think we steer clear of time alone because we fear losing our mental health.

You refrain from spending quiet time alone because:

1. You fear being alone with your thoughts.

Many people avoid time alone due to a fear of experiencing loneliness while being away from the crowds.

2. You aren’t being productive.

If an activity isn’t getting things done, then you tend to think it’s a waste of time. This is a mindset I tend to subscribe to myself.

Despite these and other reasons we try to not spend time alone, there are many better reasons as to why we should spend time by ourselves.

Why You Need Quiet Alone Time

1. It gives you time to think.

How much of your life is lived being reactive instead of proactive? Slowing down and stopping gives you a chance to think about your life, where you are going and what you want. The fast track isn’t a great path to be on if you are heading for a brick wall. It’s well worth taking the time to ponder whether you are moving in a direction that is truly fulfilling.

2. You can get clarity.

Tough decisions you have to make can become very clear when you take time to sit and think them through without being bombarded by constant noise and stimulation.

3. Creativity is sparked.

I’m not very creative when I’m stressed out. Odds are neither are you. Creating space gives room for the creative juices to flow.

4. It reduces anxiety.

Being perpetually confronted by noise takes a toll upon us. Slowing ourselves down, being in nature and lowering our noise intake can also decrease our anxiety levels.

A friend shared several months ago that his doctor ordered him to spend time in nature because his health was failing. The doctor was giving sound advice. Time in nature is healing.

I’m not saying you have to go on a seven day backpacking trip. It can be as simple as getting away for an hour to go for a walk in a local park. Regardless of how or where you spend the time, being alone and quiet is good for your health, physically and emotionally.

Investing in being alone in a quiet spot can improve your performance, your health, and give you more peace. Make a commitment to spend thirty minutes after work in a quiet place for the next week. It’s a small investment that could make a massive difference in your life and career.

The Power of Introverts

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Quiet - The Power of IntrovertsWe live in a society where an extroverted personality is often considered to be the ideal.  In such a world, those who are more introverted by nature can feel self-conscious, demeaned, or even as though they are a second-class citizen.

The truth is that introversion is not a defect; it can actually be a powerful strength in someone’s personality.

Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, describes the power of introverts in a 2012 TED Talk:

For more information on how to build self-confidence or utilize the strengths of your personality (whether introverted or extroverted), please contact CornerStone at 614-459-3003.