Most people can recall a proverb that was passed down to them while they were growing up that reflects our society’s admiration for keeping busy. Maybe it was the saying “the early bird gets the worm” or “busy as a beaver.” There is no denying that being busy is considered something to strive for and necessary for success. A busy person gets things done; they are productive and therefore a worthwhile and valuable person. It doesn’t really matter if the cost of this busy, stressed out lifestyle was sleeping too little in order to accomplish a never ending to do list or neglecting other important activities that keep us healthy and happy. The societal message is clear; achievement is valued even when well being is compromised.
Often times in my work I will suggest that clients practice some type of “stillness” exercise to reduce stress. The idea is to reconnect with ourselves and disconnect from the frenetic energy that is our modern day living. This can be practicing mediation, yoga, or even sitting in silence and doing nothing at all! Recently, I had a personal situation that required me to take my own advice when a period of stillness and silence was necessary for physical recovery. As I “practiced what I preached,” I was humbled by the difficultly of just sitting with my own thoughts. I missed being ‘plugged in’ with my phone and other ‘screens’ that offer constant distraction and amusement. However, after being initially agitated by this turn of events, I began to appreciate the gift that it was. The most important lesson I learned was that the constant connection and the daily onslaught of information that it brings is precisely why the practice of stillness is so necessary now.
In the article “The Hidden Benefits of Silence”, Suzanne Kane outlines some of the health advantages associated with stillness practices; such as lower blood pressure, lower levels of cortisone and adrenaline, promotion of positive brain chemistry and hormone regulation. It can even prevent plaque formation in the arteries and improve your sleep! In addition to these physical health benefits, people also notice improvement in creativity, self awareness and the ability to reflect and be introspective. Although these benefits are compelling, how can we achieve silence and stillness in our overscheduled and demanding lives?
In the article “The Power in Being Still & How to Practice Stillness”, Margarita Tartakovsy, suggests creating an intention of stillness by physically slowing down movement and reducing external stimuli like noise and lights. She also advises to put stillness on your schedule and make sure the time is honored by you and respected by others. Find a favorite spot that is comfortable and direct your thoughts to peaceful statements like “I am calm and still.” In the book The Art of Stillness, the author Pico Iyer cites a growing trend called the ‘Internet Sabbath’ which is turning off online connections from Friday night to Monday morning. This surely would be an intentional and powerful way to reduce the information overload we are subjected to everyday and give us more time to devote to self care and real life relationships. This book is an interesting read that paints a picture of why so many successful people —from Mahatma Gandhi to Emily Dickinson— and including the author himself have found richness in stillness. Ultimately, Iyer’s book shows that, “in this age of constant movement and connectedness, perhaps staying in one place is a more exciting prospect, and a greater necessity than ever before.”
Learn more about the author of this post: Marsha Brock, LCPC