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All the Noise in the World: How to build downtime for yourself

All the Noise in the World

shutterstock_98601176There is so much noise in our world. There is the noise of traffic, and lawn mowers, the noise of cell phones, microwave ovens, the buzz of every appliance in a house. There are other people’s conversations, streaming videos and music; everywhere you go… noise, noise, noise! There is so much noise around us, and we have grown so accustomed to it that most of us don’t even balk at the fact that in the States we are hard pressed to find a restaurant or bar where we can understand our table mates without knowing how to read lips.

In addition to sound-pollution there is visual noise. We are surrounded by screens: computers, TVs, tablets, cell phones, screens on billboards and on buildings, screens at gas station pumps. It is hard to enter a business now without being bombarded by visual and auditory noise.

There is not much that we can do about all this noise. No wonder we gravitate toward stories of zombie apocalypses, pandemics and the end of the world.

[bctt tweet=”At the end of the day we are just Homo Sapiens desperate to sit quietly in front of a fire and let ours brain rest.”]

Post-Apocalyptic Fantasies

Ever wonder why we find end-of-days themes so appealing? I am convinced part of it stems from our deep need for solitude, quiet and peace. At the end of the day we are just Homo Sapiens desperate to sit quietly in front of a fire and let ours brain rest. Behind every techie is a person who needs, and would thrive on, some down time (you can hear more about this on the latest Life in Focus Podcast about the Zombie Apocalypse).

image courtesy of AMC's "Walking Dead"
image courtesy of AMC’s “Walking Dead”

The relatively new problem we are running into is that many people now get anxious when the noise stops. They don’t know how to handle time that isn’t filled with a screen or man-made sounds. When I ask clients and patients to practice sitting in silence, I usually get this terrified look, which means “What? What do you mean silence? I can’t do that! I can’t just sit and do nothing!” It takes a bit of coaxing to convince them that not only are they capable of sitting quietly for two minutes, but that doing nothing is both okay and beneficial.

Make Time to Do Nothing

Without fail, every person I have ever assigned this silence to (which is everyone I work with) has come back and thanked me. Learning to sit quietly, to stare into space and cultivate real, quiet and alone time is extraordinarily beneficial. People are amazed initially at how hard it is to sit for a couple minutes. Then they are surprised to find out how much effort is required to get their mind to slow down. Finally, they are overcome by the relief and peace that this simple exercise provides. There is no need for an international pandemic to quiet the world, one only needs to make time to do nothing.

Making time requires anywhere from 30 seconds to as long as you want. I recommend starting with 30 seconds and building up your “quiet” tolerance from there. Personally, I would encourage you to stare into space and daydream, but you can also practice deep breathing, visualizations or positive self-statements. You can build time in your schedule to do this, or you can use the time that is available to you such as turning off your car radio at a red light and sitting in silence, or leaving your cell phone in your pocket during a solo-elevator ride.

[bctt tweet=”There is no need for a zombie outbreak to quiet the world, just make time to do nothing.”]

Calling all Parents:

Surveys from the  Thriving Parent members indicate that parents, more than anyone else, need to cultivate quiet moments. Survey after survey, parents shared how much they miss “me time,” “quiet time,” and “alone time.” It is true that having children increases the noise level in our lives. When my brother, who doesn’t have any children yet, visits, there comes a point every day when he has to leave the house because of the noise levels (and he doesn’t even have to deal with children barging into the bathroom and talking to him while he’s on the toilet).

As a parent, I hope you won’t overlook the value of 30 seconds to two minutes of daily quiet time . At first, try using naturally occurring breaks (nap times, moments in the car before you pick them up from school, or those 36 seconds where they are playing without arguing) to sit/stand in quiet solitude. Try not to use all of your breaks being so productive and busy. Eventually, start to build down time in your schedule. There’s a tool I use to do this called the Parenthood Planner, designed to help parents track and create self-care habits.  It’s one of the many tools in the Thriving Parent package.

After a week cultivating silence, let me know your progress or if you need accountability, share your goals on the LIF Facebook page using the hashtag #artofnothing.

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Hi! I'm Dr. Alessandra Wall

I help smart driven women and forward-thinking companies bridge the gap & build real conversations.

Here on the ‘Dr. Wall Says’, I share tools, tips, and insights about speaking up, getting heard and how women can take up space and thrive in the 21st century.



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