Feeling overwhelmed? You’re not the only one.
Studies show that the average smartphone users check their device every 6.5 minutes, which works out to around 150 times a day.
Technology has helped us dramatically in some ways, like being able to learn Spanish online with a local from across the world. However, it has also left us feeling less connected with ourselves.
I’ve personally been on silent meditation trips and traveled for many months without a phone, and experienced firsthand the power of silence. While I didn’t quite understand the scientific reasons behind the power of silence, I was surprised to learn how impactful it is to our health, mind, and life overall.
We’ve collected the top five science-backed reasons to make more time for silence.
1. Become More Centered
UCLA research showed that regular times set aside to disengage, sit in silence, and mentally rest, improves the “folding” of the cortex and boosts our ability to process information.
Carving out as little as 10 minutes to sit in your car and visualize peaceful scenery (rainforest, snow-falling, beach) will thicken grey matter in your brain.
2. Enhance Your Self-Awareness
When you feel more centered, it enables you to feel more self-aware of what’s around you as well.
Often times, when we’re feeling so distracted and out of touch with ourselves, it’s easy to do something without feeling the consequences of our actions. This is because we’re letting external voices and factors control our emotions, instead of our internal thoughts.
The power of silence is that as soon as you embrace it, self-awareness naturally comes into your life as well.
3. Improve Your Memory
Combining solitude with a walk in nature causes brain growth in the hippocampus region, resulting in better memory. Studies from the University of Illinois (image below) have shown that our brain after 20 minutes of walking is more activated and alert, compared to a sitting brain.
According to some evolutionists, being in nature sparks our memory because that’s how our ancestors sparked their alertness in order to remember where their food and predators were for survival.
4. Avoid Burnout
While we are big advocates for increasing productivity and making the most of the time you have, I’ve personally experienced the downsides of trying to over-maximize productivity.
Our brain needs rest, just as much as our physical bodies do, and overworking our mind can often lead to less productivity, not more. The key is to step away frequently during your work periods to make sure you’re avoiding burnout.
A technique you can use is the Pomodoro technique.
Instead of working for three hours straight, you pick one important task that you want to tackle, and you work on it for 25 minutes. Nothing else.
Once you’re done, you take a five-minute break, then repeat.
5. Foster More Ideas
The creative process includes a crucial stage called incubation, where all the ideas we’ve been exposed to get to meet, mingle, marinate — then produce an “A-ha” moment. The secret to incubation? Nothing. Literally; disengage from the work at hand, and take a rest.
What’s typically seen as useless daydreaming is now being seen as an essential experience. Professor Jonathan Schooler from UC Santa Barbara says, “Daydreaming and boredom seem to be a source for incubation and creative discovery in the brain.”
CEO of Linkedin, Jeff Weiner, goes as far as blocking off time in his busy schedule to simply sit and think. He says that these free times are helpful for:
-Thoroughly developing and questioning assumptions
-Synthesizing all of the data, information, and knowledge that’s incessantly coming your way
-Iterating through multiple scenarios
“Whatever you do, just make sure you make that time for yourself — every day and in a systematic way — and don’t leave unscheduled moments to chance. The buffer is the best investment you can make in yourself and the single most important productivity tool I use.” – Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn
Are you leveraging the power of silence in your life? There’s no right or wrong method on how you can find more silence. For some, it’s meditation, whereas, for others, it’s blocking off time in our schedule to just sit and think.
What’s more important is that you try it, no matter how tiny the experiment. Nothing is permanent, and you can always go back to your old routine in the worst case scenario.
Best case scenario? It could impact the quality of your life from today and onwards.