by Cadence McManimon
In our lives of technology, distraction, and immediacy, silence is often lost. Our minds and bodies need some quiet time, some space to rest. Without this, we become burned-out, stressed, and exhausted. But our lives are busy, and we have responsibilities, jobs, and families. How do we daily make room for silence? Here are some suggestions.
Shut off technology. No matter how entertaining the show, educational the podcast, or calming the music, technology is constant white noise. We can’t truly enjoy silence with our devices chattering away in the background! Try shutting them off. Yes, the absence of digital noise might at first stun us, as we have gotten used to technology hovering around like an annoying pet. But until the pet is outside for a while, we can’t truly enjoy the quiet.
Go outside. Nature is our great haven of rest. Where in our days can we pop outside to enjoy the fresh air, take in the view, or go for a brisk walk? I like to take my toddler sons on a nearby bike trail whenever the weather allows. We get exercise, fresh air, and quiet time. Indeed, there’s something about going outside that leaves us refreshed and relaxed when we return to our daily tasks. Maybe we could all take more lunch breaks outside, walk or bike to work, or simply stand in our yards with our morning coffee. Any outside time offers a grand opportunity for quiet.
Eat alone. This is more for those of us who have scheduled meals in busy professional lives. Some of us work 60 to 80 hours a week with busy family lives on top. I understand: There’s not much room for silence! A great option is to take our lunch or coffee break alone. While it’s tempting to work or to hang out with coworkers right through this time, sometimes we need to give our brains rest. Use lunch break to do so. (Bonus points if you can eat outside!)
Single task. Little ordinary tasks are gifts. Doing the dishes, getting the mail, folding laundry, brushing our teeth, or sweeping the floor offer us opportunities to take a break from informational noise and “reset” with a calm, dull activity. Though our minds need this respite, we often try to be “productive” by multitasking or “more fun” by adding music or media. Instead, let’s single task. Let’s focus on the ordinary job at hand—even if we are bored, have a million things to do, or think two minutes of quiet can’t possibly make a difference. Sometimes, all the silence I have in my day is brushing my teeth after the boys are in bed. I’m going to savor it!
Create dedicated quiet time. We can study our days for patterns and pick out opportunities for mental rest. As in the great Christian tradition of Sunday rest, we can schedule dedicated silence, and we can even plan where we spend this time. We have been designed to flourish with regular rest time every week. Let’s get back to it! Yes, most of us can’t spend a whole day in silence, but we can get creative with what we can do instead. Avoiding unnecessary work is traditional; we could also avoid unnecessary phone calls, television, or internet use.
Pick up a silent activity. I personally do very well with some silence in my day, but I do not do well with idleness. I simply have to do something with my hands in order to relax! We don’t have to sit completely still to enjoy silence, as we can always choose activities that don’t involve noise. For example, I love drawing, painting, and crocheting. Walking, gardening, hiking, praying, and biking are other popular options. Let’s think about our hobbies and interests, considering whether these can be pursued in quiet ways.
Fight distractions. When we are intentionally resting or being silent, our minds will inevitably get distracted. Change, even restful change, isn’t easy! To solve this, try to consistently keep a “brain dump” handy. This can be a handwritten list, a note on your phone, or whatever works for you. There, write down anything that’s on your mind, in your to-do list, or just randomly jumping through your head. Then you can settle into quiet time without mulling on what you have to remember for later. (Of course, if anything seriously pressing occurs to you during quiet time, let yourself jot it down. We all know the difference between a distraction and a responsibility!)
The more familiar we become with quiet, the less distracted we will feel and the more benefits we will reap. Learning to regularly calm our minds and bodies will help us to clear our heads, calm our stress, and focus our attention. Silence in our lives will lead to peace and clarity—don’t let our modern culture of noise take that away.
Cadence McManimon is a published author, former special education teacher, and now a wife and mother. She has too many houseplants, plenty of artsy projects, and not enough pens that work! (Doesn’t everyone?) Her novels Name Unspoken and The Lily Girl are available at her website cadencemcmanimon.com. Her favorite things include crayons, sarcasm, Sherlock Holmes, and hearing from readers!
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