“Silence at the proper season is wisdom, and better than any speech.” – Plutarch
So much of our daily lives is filled with noise. I wake up with an alarm blaring in my ears. I listen to podcasts during my morning commute and listen to music during my breaks. I eat my lunch in a crowded coffee shop, the clatter of coffee cups mixed with lots of chattering voices. Lately, I have noticed that this constant noise affects how I think and move throughout the day. So, I have begun to strip back the sound around me, and take moments of silence every day. I have begun to understand the power of quiet.
Silence is important for our health. The World Health Organization once reported noise pollution as the “plague” of our modern times. They reported that being constantly surrounded by noisy environments has adverse effects on our cognition and health.
For centuries, silence has been an important tool for reflection and relaxation. Without the distraction of sound in our environment, we are able to focus on where we are in that single moment, giving us the space to think clearer. Many religious and spiritual people use silence to take them out of the stress of daily life to pray, reflect, and meditate.
In some spiritual practices, silence is a mandatory obligation in their daily routine or a long-term commitment. Some monks take vows of silence which can last weeks or years. This helps them focus their everyday speech on the essentials – to not talk too much and distract their thoughts. In other practices, during church ceremonies, for instance, people will take a community moment of silence to reflect upon a person they have lost or to be thankful for someone or something in their lives. Silence in these ways can be seen as a daily practice to be more intentional and practice thankfulness.
Noise pollution is known to give us heightened blood pressure and stress, and can even lead to heart attacks and impaired hearing. Studies surrounding silence also show that taking a moment each day away from sound can help the brain.
Indeed, this is why many schools take a moment of silence before class starts. Dating back to the 1980s, one school in New York has been using silence as a part of the school routine. This has not only allowed students to pray or meditate as they see fit but take time to reflect on how they can make their day great. A recent study on school children utilizing a quiet space in their classroom tells us that the quiet can help to calm us. The same study indicates that quiet time can be a powerful tool towards gaining better self-awareness and self-control.
With this, all in mind, I have begun to make time in my day for a moment of silence. I switch my phone to quiet and sit alone on the couch in my living room. Sometimes I close my eyes, sometimes I look out the window. I try to not think about work, and simply think positive, reassuring thoughts. This has made my everyday life that much better, and given me a bit more clarity on my daily goals and put me in a positive mind space.
So, I encourage you to take a moment of silence today, whether in your morning or during your commute, to pray, reflect, or just enjoy a moment of quiet.