“Silence is a source of great strength.” – Lao Tzu
While some people dislike a silent environment, equating it with being alone and lonely, others look forward to spending time with just their thoughts, seeking silence with eagerness, as if anticipating a gift. Indeed, silence offers profound benefits, many of which we aren’t even aware of.
Silence is good for overall physical health and well-being
Besides giving our ears a break, silence has been shown to offer significant health advantages that boost overall well-being. From a physiological standpoint, silence helps:
- Lower blood pressure, which can help prevent heart attack.
- Boost the body’s immune system.
- Benefit brain chemistry by growing new cells. A 2013 study found that two hours of silence could create new cells in the hippocampus region, a brain area linked to learning, remembering, and emotions.
- Decrease stress by lowering blood cortisol levels and adrenaline. Furthermore, according to a 2006
studyin 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.
- Promote good hormone regulation and the interaction of bodily hormone-relate systems.
- Prevent plaque formation in arteries.
Lending credence to these observations, science now recognizes the harmful effects of noise pollution on human health and cognition.
Silence promotes psychological and emotional benefits
Taking a break from difficulties at home, work or school is often best accomplished with a conscious choice to entertain silence. Without the distractions of tech devices, ringing phones, incoming messages, unexpected assignments or chores, or the demands of children, co-workers, family members and friends, it’s easier to calm the mind and restore balance.
Silence may help in the following areas:
- 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 work-around or innovative approach may seem more feasible. Ideas for going in a different direction could coalesce, helping build momentum and excitement for spinning them off into yet other potential avenues to pursue.
- 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.
- Reflection – Silence permits the kind of reflection that is beyond mere introspection. It promotes the ability to connect threads in a seemingly disorganized, 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, vow to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
- Sensitivity to flow of life force – As a living organism, becoming aware of your essence, your flow of life force is important to maximizing your potential and impact on those closest to you. No one exists in a vacuum. We’re all members of the human species. As such, our life force separates us from all other species.
- Insomnia – In a 2015
studypublished in JAMA Internal Medicine, older adults experiencing insomnia found relief in the form of improved sleep quality and less daytime impairment after undergoing a 6-week intervention of mindfulness meditation.
Suggestions for entertaining silence
At a loss for effortless ways to get in the practice of entertaining silence? It isn’t as difficult as you might think, and anyone can begin to cultivate silence to help benefit overall health and well-being. Try these suggestions:
- Invite a friend for a walk outside in nature. Then, make sure to walk at least part of the way in mutual silence. You can also walk solo to get more in tune with nature and allow your mind to take a quiet time-out.
- Remain in bed an extra 5 minutes before getting up for the day. Use this time to slowly awaken to the world, basking in the silence of the sleeping quarters, letting your thoughts wash over you. Say a silent prayer of gratitude for all that you have and ask for blessings for the day ahead.
- Engage in deep breathing exercises. This helps calm your mind and quiet it at the same time.
- Meditate. This practice can be whatever you want it to be, from simple to more intricate. Teach yourself or join a class, whatever works for you to get in the habit of silently witnessing your thoughts.
5 Reasons Why Silence is a Source of Great Strength
Recently, I was reading a Jack Reacher novel and I noticed how many times in a conversation he would answer with silence. It was powerful. Often the other person would offer more information or would quickly get the answer he or she needed in the silence that met the question.
For some people, silence comes naturally. These fortunate individuals know the power of silence and they are comfortable in that silence. There are quite a few of us who need to learn the art of practicing silence. Read on for more reasons to try silence in your daily communications.
Laughter: the hidden benefits
Name 3 things you have to do everyday. Ok, I’ll go first: breathe, eat, talk, drive, listen, ok maybe that’s more than 3. These are the necessities right? The things we need to do. These are things I don’t even think about, I just do automatically. But, what about the things that make me feel good, things like smiling, hearing my favorite song, having a massage, talking to an old friend, or laughter-those are the things that don’t come as easily. Why is it that we don’t make the second list a part of our daily tasks? Maybe it’s because we don’t know just how important it is.
So you ask, what are the benefits of laughter? Here are some: Let’s start with how it helps us physically. Laughing stretches the muscles in your face and body and increases your blood pressure and heart rate, very similar to the benefits of exercising. It also feels good, it feels really good and relaxes your body. The best part…..it can burn calories-winning! Ok let me confess it won’t be enough to replace exercise, but still every little bit adds up. Next, laughter helps you spiritually-no matter what or who you believe in, being able to laugh can help you appreciate your blessings, people around you, your home, the fact that you are safe, that God seems to have an interesting sense of humor, and that you are still a work in progress.
Emotionally: Laughter makes you feel good. I know that was mentioned earlier-but there is a difference between feeling good physically and feeling good emotionally. I have had times where my body felt good and I was a wreck emotionally. But when the opposite happens, I’m ok-not great but I tend to bounce back quicker. Laughter brings you these great feelings like joy, happiness, peace, love. It can improve your mood, change your perspective, remind you to stop and enjoy the moment, help you not take yourself so seriously…I could go on and on. Finally, relationally the people I laugh most with, I am most connected to. The most valuable relationships are those where you can talk about the most ridiculous things, or laugh at yourself (or someone else). It can help you connect to others and lighten awkward situations. When you laugh with others, you develop an invisible connection you may never have had before, that many times can be the start of a lasting connection. I find this is true in my personal and business life-whether we are friends or networking, if we laugh together, I mean genuinely laugh together, our connection, work, and shared interests are more valuable and those are the people I am most invested in!
So my one tip for a better life: Laughter! Laugh every day, every week, every month. Laugh the way you have your morning coffee. Laugh in the same way you drive to work. Laugh sometimes, laugh often, laugh always.
We need silence to encounter the divine
There’s a reason that those prophets always went out into the desert to find clarity and talk to God. You see, silence — true interior silence — is actually how we encounter the divine and thus, it’s actually how we encounter our real selves, allowing us to determine and follow the truths that live within us.
“The desire to see God is what urges us to love solitude and silence,” as Robert Cardinal Sarah explains. “For silence is where God dwells. He drapes himself in silence. In every era, this experience of an interior life and an intimate, loving relationship with God has remained indispensable for those who seek true happiness.”
Of course, there is a difference between exterior silence and interior silence — interior silence cannot happen without first learning to become comfortable in exterior silence. And while those moments of exterior silence might be rare, they’re worth embracing — and, after time, worth seeking.
I am no expert. Yet, I’ve discovered that while experiencing real silence might be strange and unnerving, and, yes, seemingly even inconvenient at first — if I continue living my life distracted by noise, I’m only pushing the divine (and the source of my happiness) far, far away.
Top 21 Outstanding Benefits of Silence
The amounts of conversation and distractions have increased tremendously throughout the years, especially in this era where accessing the information is so easy.
People are engaging in multiple modes of connectivity all at once these days. They talk to their friends, using one hand to scroll their phone and check updates on social media, another hand holding their daughter, and at the same time, walking to a grocery to store to buy food for dinner.
It is mind-boggling to imagine how many conversations and distractions can happening all at the same time. Do you know that according to National Safety Council, there are 1.6 million driving accidents due to distractions from cell phone each year?
This is why it is important to foster silence in your everyday life. In fact, plenty of studies have been conducted on the need for silence and science has also proved that being in silence each day has many advantages, and below are the top 21 outstanding benefits of silence.
1. You Become Calmer
One of the most important benefits of being in silence is that it helps you become calmer. Studies have shown that people who consistently spend time alone and in solitude tend to be calmer.
They will become less susceptible to negative thinking or influenced by negative emotions. When you are always at peace and at a state of calmness, you can see your surroundings and notice what works and what doesn’t in your life. Hence, people who practice in being silence tend to be more successful than others who don’t.
2. Boost Your Intuition
One way to develop your intuition and gut feeling is through silence. When you are all alone, you are actually not really “alone”. What happens is that you will strike a conversation with yourself. In other words, you will engage in self-talk.
And it is your self-talk that will boost your intuition because you are listening to yourself. The more you spend time alone and be in silence, the more self-talk you will experience and as a result, the better your intuition. Gut feeling and intuition are the results of self-trust. And self-trust comes from believing in yourself through your own thinking. And this is why silence can make you more intuitive.
3. Understand Yourself Better
Lao Tzu has a powerful and meaningful quote regarding understanding yourself:
“Knowing others is intelligence knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength mastering yourself is true power.”
People who manage to accomplish extraordinary results in life are people who understand themselves better. They know their potential, their strength, and their passion, and thus, they manage to utilize their characters to maximize their results in life.
When you understand yourself better, you will know your strength and your weakness. As a result, you can better leverage on what you do best to produce amazing success in life. So spend time and be in silence to understand yourself more.
4. Improve Awareness
How can you know if what you do is correct and if you are traveling on the right path? You cannot unless you have the awareness to find out what you do is correct. And when you are in silence, it improves your awareness.
And when you are aware of what is happening around you and whether your life is working, you can then make a conscious adjustment to living a life that you have always desired. However, it all starts from practicing silence to improve your awareness.
There are too many noises and distractions in this world. You have to transcend and rise above the noise to discover yourself and to improve your awareness to do better in life.
5. Taps Into Your Creativity
Studies have shown that when you are alone and in the state of silence, you will engage more with your mind. You will be talking to yourself and answering questions that ask yourself, as a result, you will tap into your creativity and use your brain more often.
People who spend more time alone tend to be more creative. It is said that Albert Einstein discovered the theory of relativity through his imagination of riding the sunbeam while he was alone daydreaming in the hillside.
The same went for Isaac Newton. It is said that he was taking a rest, in silence and all by himself sitting under an apple tree in the garden. When out of sudden, an apple fell on his head and that made him into discovering gravity.
So spend more time alone, be with yourself, and talk more to yourself. You can boost your creativity when you are engaged in your own imagination.
6. Lower Your Stress and Pressure
Besides improving your creativity, research has also shown that when people are in silence, they are able to lower their level of stress and pressure.
This is why doctors suggest people take a walk in a garden when they are experiencing stress and pressure from work and life. Do you know that stress and pressure from our daily life have increased tremendously and is at an alarming rate now?
You probably have read news on people who commit suicide because they cannot take the stress from their work. So spend time by yourself and be in solitude to lower your stress regularly.
7. Mental Detoxification
Do you know that when you are in silence, you can get rid of all negative thoughts and energy? There are just too many distractions and negative influences from everything including the negative people you talk to, the ever-buzzing social media that requires your attention, and your demanding work.
You need to go through mental detoxification by practicing being in silence. This is why meditation has quickly gained its popularity lately. Meditation is a great way to practice silence and get rid of all mental illness.
8. Have Better Patience
Studies have shown that people who are always being in silence tend to have more patience. This is extremely important in today’s fast-moving world. Imagine getting stuck in traffic congestion, most people easily get angry and start to show through their reckless act of driving.
However, people who always spend time in solitude will have better patience in dealing with their fast-moving surrounds such as traffic jam and crazy workload. When you are alone and in silence, you will feel calm and at peace. And when you are calm and at peace, you will have better patience.
9. Decreases Muscle Tension
Feeling pain due to muscle tension because you are sitting in your office facing the computer screen for long hours? All you need to do is to be in silence. Take a walk in the garden, sit quietly, practice meditation, and try to be in solitude.
These practices can decrease your muscle tension and restore your blurry eyesight. This is why meditation has a lot of healing effects because it requires you to be in silence and be in calm and relax mode. When you take in a deep breath, stay in silence and relax, you will feel the tension goes away almost immediately.
10. Broadens Your Perspective
Yes, being in silence can broaden your perspective. Albert Einstein once said, “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”
The practice of being in silence and in solitude allows you to see the situation from a different perspective. Instead of looking at a problem from the outside, you are able to see the problem arising from your own thoughts.
This will put you in the position where you are responsible for the problem. And when you are responsible for what has happened, you will be in control and able to change the situation.
11. Less Energy Wasted
D you know that your energy level is just like the battery level for your phone? Your energy is fully charged when you have a good sleep and in the morning after you wake up. And as you go through your day, working, making decisions, and taking action, you use your energy.
This is why by afternoon most people will feel tired and sleepy because they used up most of their energy in the morning. And one great way to recharge your energy is to be in silence.
When you are alone and in silence, you use less energy because you are in a relaxed state and there are fewer distractions. Thus, if you want to be more productive, try to spend a few minutes to be in silence every day.
12. Helps in Discovering Your Purpose
Most people these days have no idea what they want to do in their lives, this is especially obvious among the young people. They are often distracted by other people’s opinion and they neglect their own inner calling.
However, when you are in silence, you are listening to your inner voice. This is an amazing way to discover what you truly want to accomplish in your life. You will discover the real purpose of your life and what you want to do.
When you are in silence, you shut yourself out from the noise from the outside and you are able to spend more time with yourself.
13. Improves Focus and Concentration
Do you know that one of the benefits of silence is that you can improve your focus and concentration on what you do in life?
You will be less prone to distraction and the noise from the outside when you are in silence. As a result, you are able to focus better and the work at your hands or concentrate better at any goal that you are trying to pursue.
14. Grow Better Relationships
Studies have also shown that being in silence can promote building better relationships with other people in your life. Of course, this is not to say that you should stay in silence and be alone for long hours.
It simply means that by calming yourself, being with yourself, and developing better patience on a regular basis, you can handle your relationship with others in a more efficient manner.
15. Develops Willpower
Willpower is an important factor that will determine how successful you can in life. People who lack willpower tend to give up on things they do quickly, they have less self-discipline and can’t seem to focus on what they desire.
On the other hand, people who have better willpower have more self-discipline, able to focus better and are less likely to quit or give up on what they want. And being in silence helps develop your willpower.
16. Becomes Better in Decision-making
If you always find it difficult and annoying to think about what to eat for dinner, what movie to watch or what you should do over the weekend, you have an issue with decision-making.
Research has shown that when you are in solitude, you will be able to listen to yourself better. It is not your indecision that makes the decision-making process difficult, but it is your self-doubt and fear to express your thoughts that stop most people from moving forward.
When you stop, be in silence and take time to listen to yourself, you will discover the real answer to what you want. Hence, you can make a better decision and move forward in life.
17. Mind Ages at A Slower Rate
Silence can grow your brain and slow the rate of aging. A study on mice on the effects of ambient noise, white noise, pup calls and silence has shown that two hours of silence each day can lead to the development of new brain cells.
And when your brain is growing and engaging with more activities, it will age slower. This is why silence is important to your mental health. And when your brain is engaging and experiencing growth, it can prevent mental illness such as depression and Alzheimer’s.
18. Cure Headaches and Migraines
Have you ever felt headaches and migraines due to heavy workload and stress from what you experienced each day? And the problem seems to go away after you sit quietly and calm down?
This is another benefit you can get from being in silence. When you slow down, relax and are in silence, you feel calm, at peace, and your muscles will be in a relaxed state. As a result, the headache and migraine will be gone. Your breathing slows, your heart rate drops and you will enter in a calmer state that gives you a deep rest when you are entering a silent mode.
19. Brings Spirit, Mind, and Body in Harmony
Silence also brings balance. It balances your natural rhythms and brings your spirit, mind, and body in harmony. Most people tend to always be living in a hurry and they forget to spend the time to nurture their spiritual self.
Sometimes, in order to go further, you need to stop and reflect on your life and what is happening around you. In order to go further, you need to gain a better perspective and make sure you are traveling on the right journey.
If you are climbing a ladder, make sure it is leaning against the right wall so that you will get to the right place. The same goes in life, make sure you are going in the right direction that brings your spirit, mind, and body in coherence.
20. Live in the Moment
Do you know that practicing silence and solitude allow you to live in the moment at a higher state? Living in the moment is often referred to as mindfulness. It is a state where you are active, open and put intentional attention on the present.
When you become mindful, you realize that you are not your thoughts, you become the observer of your thoughts from moment to moment without judging them.
And if you spend time alone, be in silence and solitude on a regular basis, you will be able to engage with mindfulness more often.
21. Attain Higher Level of Emotional Stability
Another very important benefit of being in silence is that it promotes a higher level of emotional stability. People will be less likely to get angry easily, they will become prone to the attack of negative emotions, and achieve more mental stability.
In your everyday lives, sensory input is being thrown at you from every angle. And when you get away from these sonic disruptions, your brain’s attention centers will have the opportunity to restore themselves. In other words, it is saying that silence restores your mental resources and makes you more stable.
This is very crucial in the modern world where distractions, stress, and pressure are always trying to get hold of you. You want to be more emotionally stable so that you can handle problems and make better decisions at life.
Give yourself a rest of silence every single day. There are many benefits you can get from practicing silence as what you have discovered above. You can be centered and still while everyone rushes around.
More importantly, silence has been used as a powerful tool in the lives of all those who find it truly is a wonderful life.
Find a quiet place where you can be undisturbed and comfortable. You can choose to sit or walk around as long as you are comfortable. And just stay in silence, focus on your breath and quiet your mind.
You don’t have to spend hours into being in silence each day. Just spend about 15 minutes a day will do. Of course, if you have more time, you can do it longer. After you have practiced silence for a few weeks, take note of the benefits coming to you.
5. Saves Your Mental Energy from Being Wasted Unnecessarily
Unnecessary and impulsive chatters are like tiny holes in a bucket of water, constantly leaking and wasting precious water.
Since the holes are small, you don’t notice the leakage right away, but by the end of the day, your bucket is empty without you even using the water for yourself. And you wonder where all the water went.
Do you relate to this? Have you ever felt mentally drained?
I personally experienced that, as I developed the habits of speaking less and conserving my speech even when I have the urge to speak, my overall productivity went up like 5X. No exaggeration.
I had more mental energy to put towards the things that really matter. As a blogger and content creator, I noticed that I had a lot more to say in the content that I’m producing and a lot more ideas started flowing.
But the productivity boost was not just limited to the content, I also stopped procrastinating quite a bit, and I used to be a big procrastinator before. Since I was preserving my energy by remaining quiet, I was naturally drawn to Walk the Talk, rather than just endlessly talking the talk.
We must learn to be selective about conserving our mental energy so that we could invest it purposefully in places that really matter.
Meditation and the Art of Inclusive Awareness
Steven Leonard guides a meditation for releasing tension and finding balance.
Silence opens the door for us to daydream, fantasize, and imagine more easily than when we’re overloaded with sensory input. Myriad streams of thoughts, feelings, ideas, and memories are more likely to emerge when we disengage from external stimuli. We may find solutions to problems we’ve been grappling with for a while, or we may feel inspired to create something new.
How often, in a conversation, are you waiting for your turn to talk rather than really listening to what the other person is saying? Learning to be comfortable with silence trains us to focus on the people in front of us, so we can really absorb what a friend, colleague, or partner is saying before jumping in with our own thoughts. We may see that other person in a way we haven’t before. When we consciously practice silence and deep listening in our relationships—even just for moments here and there—we may feel more compassion and empathy for the people in our lives.
Five Benefits of Quiet Time
Recent research reports five tangible advantages of taking time for silence.
1. Silence Reduces Stress
Silence first appeared in scientific research as a baseline, or control, against which scientists compare the effects of noise. Researchers have often studied it by accident. In a 2006 study on the effects on sound, physician Luciano Bernardi investigated the efficacy of music in modulating stress.
He used silence as a control between different music clips. These short silence pauses turned out to be more relaxing on the brain than so-called “relaxing” music. Bernardi thinks this soothing effect of silence is heightened by the contrast with noise.
It can therefore be assumed that short periods of silence contrasted against other sounds can help people deal with stress. Getting away to a quiet place within your work space for a few minutes when you start feeling overwhelmed might be a good way to reduce stress and improve your performance.
Medical professionals increasingly embrace silence as a way to reduce stress. Many physicians now prescribe the art of meditation to patients dealing with anxiety. This practice consists in remaining silent and calm while focusing on a particular thought, object, or image to increase awareness of the present moment and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm state.
2. Silence Improves Cognitive Functions
A study published in the National Library of Medicine in 2013 revealed that exposure to prolonged silence can stimulate the brain to produce new cells. Imke Kirste, a biologist at Duke University, examined the effects of noise and silence on the brains of mice.
Silence was intended to be the control in the study, but Kirste discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day, they developed new cells in the hippocampus, the brain zone associated with memory and learning.
The growth of new brain cells does not always translate into concrete cognitive benefits. However, in this instance, the cells appeared to become functioning neurons.
Taking time for silence every day can possibly help you maintain â even improve â your ability to learn and memorize new things, which can make your work life much easier.
3. Silence Increases Creativity
The capacity to shut out the outside world can possibly increase chances of developing innovative ideas.
In a 2013 review of literature on cognitive and clinical psychology, psychologist Jonathan Smallwood found out that human creativity largely depends on one's ability to disengage from the external environment and focus on self-generated thought.
Self-generated thought is characterized by internally focused mental activity that occurs when the mind is not engaged with the outside world. This includes day-dreaming, thinking about the future, and letting the mind wander. When we are able to disengage and relax, we can access inner thoughts, memories and ideas.
Neuroimaging research has identified the brain’s default network as the primary source of self-generated thought. Increasing evidence suggests that the default network plays a critical role in creative thinking. In fact, several brain imaging studies report activation of default regions during creative problem solving and artistic performance.
4. Silence Enhances Your Mood
Image Credit : Bustle
The ability to access self-generated thoughts when the brain is disengaged from external stimuli allows you to acknowledge and analyze your own emotional state. Reflecting on how you feel can help you address problematic situations better, which can significantly improve your state of mind.
Using the brain's default network also helps you focus on the present moment, which reduces negative thoughts and anxiety.
Working in a constantly noisy environment and being frequently interrupted can become frustrating . Breaking away from that buzzing atmosphere and retreating to a quiet place for a few minutes can enhance your mood and make your day more pleasant.
To minimize interruptions and sensory input, it may be a good idea to turn off social media notifications on your phone and computer.
You can also let your coworkers know precisely when you are available to discuss, and inform them that you would rather not interrupt your work at certain hours.
5. Silence Helps you Focus
In everyday life, especially at work, the brain continuously receives sensory input. This puts a significant burden on the medial prefrontal cortex, which is involved in directed attention, problem-solving, and high-order thinking.
This brain zone can become overwhelmed by constant stimuli. As a result, you may get mentally fatigued and struggle to focus. Fewer distractions allow the brain to settle into a concentrated state. Several studies have shown that the brain can restore its attention resources when we are in quiet environments.
The Attention Restoration Theory, developed by psychologists Rachel and Stephen Kaplan in 1989, indicates that exposure to quiet natural environments encourages more effortless cognitive function, which allows the brain to let down its sensory guard and replenish its attention capacity.
While it is not always possible to escape to a natural space during working hours, going for a walk outside at a quiet moment of the day may help you regain the ability to focus on your tasks.
The Power of Silence
Suddenly you have downtime. What do you do? Chances are, you’re geared to filling in that time—probably without even thinking about it—by answering a few emails, doing a little work, cleaning, surfing the web, or catching up on your recorded TV shows. You may not think to yourself, I think I’ll sit in silence.
Yet most of us crave more down time, more stillness. So why don’t we make it happen?
“Silence can make us uncomfortable because we’re so used to distracting ourselves from what we’re feeling—from difficult emotions like fear, resentment or anger,” says Stephanie Ludwig, PhD, MA, MDiv, Director of Spiritual Wellness at Canyon Ranch Tucson. “When we’re truly and intentionally silent, we have to face whatever is inside of us.” Instead, we keep moving and making plans and doing things for others. “We live in such a ‘doer’ culture—go, go, go, do, do, do,” Ludwig notes. “If we really knew the blessings that come from being in silence, we would definitely make more time for it.”
What Being Silent Means
Being quiet and being silent are not synonymous, but Ludwig says they’re often seen as one and the same.
“Being quiet is, in some way, equivalent to keeping your mouth shut—not making your voice heard. But being silent is more about entering a sacred place within yourself,” she says. “When you’re silent, an inner sanctuary opens up and your mind calms down and is freed from the endless cycle of thinking. I really love this explanation from Catholic Nun and Zen Master Elaine MacInnes: ‘Silence is the vehicle that takes us to the innermost center of our being, which is the place for all authentic practice.’”
The Benefits of Practicing Silence
Intentional silence cultivates more awareness within us, Ludwig says. She recalls a 10-day meditation retreat based on Vipassana, an ancient technique designed to develop self-transformation through observing yourself in a place where no talking allowed: “It was really powerful—uncomfortable, but powerful. I became much more aware of myself, of my habits, my tendencies, the way I communicate—the good and the not-so-good.” Part of that heightened awareness is that time may seem to slow down.
“An hour or even a minute can seem like a very long time,” she says. More silence in your life may also help you think more clearly. “There’s an increased comfort with yourself that comes with this practice and you might find yourself making decisions with more ease—maybe not initially, but over time.”
Part of your practice should be carried out when you’re in the company of your spouse, family, friends or colleagues. When you’re silent, you can listen a lot better, Ludwig explains, noting the appropriateness of the words “listen” and “silent” being anagrams of one another (both words containing the same letters).
“So often we feel uncomfortable being in silence with another person. We feel like we have to keep talking, filling the space with words or distractions,” she says. When you’re silent and truly listening, though, you’re naturally able to be more present—to take in both verbal and non-verbal communication. “From that place of presence, you’re more open to learning about either the person speaking or something that’s being said.”
How to Practice Intentional Silence
When you’re by yourself:
Since engaging in silence may not come easily at first, Ludwig recommends establishing a daily practice of intentional silence lasting just five to 10 minutes. Turning off your devices—your smartphone, computer, tablet and any other gadgets—is crucial. “You can also set your alarm for 10 minutes earlier in the morning and just make a commitment to be in silence before you get out of bed. Keep it simple initially,” says Ludwig, who adds that it can help to create some sort of sacred area, like a room, corner or an outdoor spot, that you think of as your “silent space.”
Once you’ve settled into that routine, try other methods just a few minutes of reflection or mindfulness here and there can be beneficial. Observe your surroundings—the changing sky as storm clouds roll in, the dog walker directing her pack, the older man helping his wife out of the car. Make it a more personal time—notice the curved lines on your palms, the feel of a passing breeze across your cheeks, the sound of your breath as you inhale and exhale. And then take it to a deeper level, reflecting inwardly on how you’re feeling. Maybe that sounds something like this:
I’ve been tired this week I should do less tomorrow.
I really miss my mom today maybe I’ll make that soup she always loved.
I’m not satisfied with my job I really do want to start my own business.
Ludwig stresses that sitting isn’t required for a silent practice. “One of the misunderstandings is that we have to cease all activity. You can practice silence while you’re doing all kinds of activities.
Whether you’re working on a project with others or catching up with your spouse after a long day, taking a simple pause before you respond to that person is a way of practicing silence, Ludwig says. That small moment can make a big difference in how the conversation continues. You can also choose to practice silence while you’re around other people even if you’re not engaging with them. “Practicing silence begins with your intention to do so.”
Deepening Your Silent Practice
Silent retreats, like the one Ludwig attended, require more of a commitment—something you may feel you need if you feel more stress in your life or are dealing with a major change and consequently feel ready to devote some time to a deeper level of self-exploration and practice. Perhaps you feel lost about the direction of your life or you have a big decision to make. Ludwig says you can also plan a mindfulness retreat—rent a house in the mountains or at the beach—where you can be by yourself. “Or it could be a Saturday night at home where you say, ‘I need this time for myself,’” says Ludwig. “If you’re intentional about taking that time for silence, you’ll reap the rewards.”
Explore self care and personal discovery retreats at Canyon Ranch.