Silence is Golden
May 13, 2022
Mona Ahtesham (she/her/hers), Low Entropy Volunteer Writer
Noise pollution is all around us, and nearly impossible to evade. We are surrounded by the buzz of big city traffic, listen to music while we travel and constantly overhear conversations around us. Whether we are alone or surrounded by people, in the modern world we live in, silence is hard to come by. Even our homes, the places where we seek refuge from the chaos of the world, are continuously filled with the sounds of everyday life. Because silence is so rare, we often forget why it is important at all. In fact, silence is very significant because it allows us to tap into a part of our minds we often neglect: the part that is occupied by a form of noise pollution we are not entirely aware of.
This form of noise pollution doesn’t come from our external environment. Instead, it comes in the form of our internal state of mind. It is the noise that is produced by the constant stream of thoughts that buzz around in our minds. Our mental to-do lists, plans and running dialogue take over our headspace and become so loud, they eventually become the only thoughts we can hear. These intrusive thoughts add to the constant noise around us at a level we don’t even fully register.
True silence cannot be achieved until we can escape all forms of noise pollution, internal and external. Although finding a quiet external environment is relatively easy, quieting our minds can often be a difficult task, and requires a bit of conscious effort. You may be wondering why it is important to do so at all. In fact, finding periods in your day where you can experience complete silence comes with many benefits and rewards, some of which include:
- Heightened senses: By turning off the distracting sounds of everyday life, you turn on your ability to sense the experiences that are often overshadowed. Stopping to smell the roses, so to speak. Experiencing the faint buzz of a housefly or the hum of your refrigerator. These seemingly cliché moments are surprisingly therapeutic and part of the human experience we often miss. Or perhaps you can practice your mind-body connection and enhance your sense of proprioception. Certain exercises that target these also come with many physical health benefits!
- Internal reflection: When you find a moment to quiet your mind, you are able to forget about the accumulating tasks in your life that are causing you stress, and instead focus on yourself. You can register your level of mental wellbeing without the loom of your fears and anxieties hanging over you. You can meditate, evaluate how you are feeling and make a list of the things you are grateful for. Or you simply do nothing, and use this as an opportunity to enjoy the rare, yet calm feeling of not being bombarded with millions of things to do.
- An opportunity to see the bigger picture: Another downside to the constant running dialogue playing in our heads is that it forces us to see the world within a very short time frame. We mostly consider the short-term — the projects we have to finish tomorrow, or the chores we have to tackle by the end of the week. Very rarely do we consider the fact that our lives, and thus our accomplishments and triumphs, take place over the span of years, or even decades. Quieting our minds allows us to remember this fact, and realize whatever storm we are faced with today will likely pass. This is not to make light of our problems, but merely to prompt us to consider the big picture, reevaluate our priorities and ensure our goals have a place in the overall wellbeing and happiness of our lives.
These benefits demonstrate the value of silence. With them in mind, I encourage you to find a moment of complete and utter silence in your day in order to experience them for yourself, as well as discover some others! A quiet environment can be found in nature or your home. Finding a quiet headspace, however, may prove to be more difficult. A quiet mind is not a physical location you can merely drive to. Doing so may take some trial and error in figuring out what works best for you. Here are some strategies that may help you achieve that mental silence:
- Free write: Grab a piece of paper and pencil, set a timer for 10 minutes and write whatever comes to mind. This could be an elaborate short story, or your name over and over again. Whatever comes into your mind, write it down! The goal is to have nothing left in your mind by the end of those 10 minutes. Use this as your opportunity to dump any intrusive thoughts that are preventing you from quieting your mind.
- Exercise: Yoga is the obvious go-to for achieving a silent state of mind. But cool-down stretches after a run or a quick bout of HIIT is also usually accompanied with surprisingly empty thoughts and a calm head.
- Allow your thoughts to wander: It may seem counterproductive to give your thoughts free rein while trying to turn them off. But, as with the free-writing technique, doing so allows you to find an outlet for those thoughts, rather than allowing them to take up residence in the back of your mind. So don’t be too hard on yourself if attempts to silence your thoughts end up producing even louder thoughts!
There are many strategies that can be used to quiet your mind, and they are often very individualized and personal. But the benefits that can be experienced make the efforts to do so worth it. I hope you can find an opportunity in your day to achieve a state of internal and external silence, and witness for yourself the significant value of silence.
Mona Ahtesham is an undergraduate student at the University of British Columbia studying speech sciences. In her free time, she loves exploring nature and spends as much time as possible outdoors!
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