Recently, I was dragged kicking and screaming to Yellowstone State Park on a very impromptu mini-vacay. Why was I screaming you might ask? I had to ask myself that very same question, because nature is my happy place! After a long school year I should have eagerly embraced the opportunity to reconnect with nature, sunshine and silence. But my to-do list was long and filled to the brim with things to do, people to meet with and looming deadlines. I couldn’t see the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel”.
Fortunately, in spite of my reluctance, we made it happen. We dragged out the camping gear, bought enough food to feed an army, grabbed four of our grand kids and hit the road. Miles drifted by with music, chatter, and business being conducted over the cell phone. Then we entered the gates to Yellowstone and, as if by magic, cell phone reception disappeared! You might wonder if they planned it that way (no towers in the park) but whatever the reason, we had to pay attention to the here and now and not the “what if’s”. Social media, email and distant conversations disappeared. We had to connect with where we were and who we were with. And we began to notice the silence and the space that seemed to open up around us. The sound of a wolf howling and the rush of water in the river. The blue of the sky and the smell of the forest.
Photo by David Mark from Pixabay
I instinctively know that silence is good for me, but beyond my intuition there is science to back it up. Just a few of the benefits of spending even a few minutes a day in silence include lower blood pressure, a boost in our immune system, lower stress, regulation of hormones, growth of brain cells, and lower plaque in arteries. Now that is a pretty impressive list of benefits!
Unfortunately, noise pollution — constantly being surrounded by noise in your environment — can be harmful to adult health but even more so to the development of our children.
The World Health Organization reports:
“There is overwhelming evidence that exposure to environmental noise has adverse effects on the health of the population,” the report concludes, citing children as particularly vulnerable to the effects of chronic urban and suburban racket.
The report also confirmed what several psychologists have known for decades: Chronic noise impairs a child’s development and may have a lifelong effect on educational attainment and
overall health. Numerous studies now show that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills and have lower reading scores.
So as I was pulled away from my busy world, unplugged from the noise and clutter of technology, jobs and to-do lists, I felt my mind and body settle. I slept better, I had more energy, I felt happier and I laughed A LOT!
The sad thing is I almost had to be forced to take that break. Work had become an addiction, something that I craved, something that I couldn’t easily give up. Which, unfortunately, is the situation many of us face. Our to-do’s define us. We must cram as much as we can into the hours of our day and then look for way to add in one more task for the next day.
WE HAVE TO STOP! WE HAVE TO PAUSE! WE HAVE TO FIND SILENCE!
The good news is that we can, and it doesn’t have to be hundreds of miles away or for a week vacation. We can unplug right where we live. Is it easy? Of course not, but we can build in minutes of silence each day.
Here are some suggestions that, in the long run, will make you healthier and happier until you can make your escape to your happy quiet places!
o Make a plan each day to unplug from your phone. Research says that you will sleep better if you turn off televisions, computers and other devices — anything with a screen — at least 60 minutes before you go to bed. So you might be thinking…what do I do instead?
o Read a book either by yourself or out loud with the family
o Color, draw, write or journal
o Yoga or gentle movement
o Before heading home after work, take a walk outside. If possible, find a park on the way and just stop for a walk — no music, no phone — just you and your feet.
o As you walk, notice the sounds that you hear.
o Notice the colors that you see.
o Notice the scents that you smell
o Notice where your thoughts go without judgment
o Make a quiet plan for the family.
o Give your time a fun name — “The Silent Zone” or “The Zip It Time”
o Set a time aside each day to just enjoy the quiet that comes with not talking or “doing”
o You could practice, body scanning, mindful breathing, or candle gazing. Go to www.omtastic-yoga.com for guided practices.
Improve your health and the health of your family before it is too late…Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!