One of the things I remember most clearly about the afternoon of September 11, 2001 was the silence.
The skies were eerily absent of sound.
I had never really noticed the near-constant hum of aircrafts...until there was none. All planes were grounded that day - and with them the noise of modern life.
It was a profound experience.
It's safe to say that these days, some sixteen years later, are filled with more noise and more distraction than ever. It's hard to believe just how much technology has become part of our everyday lives. Between cellphones and devices, music in restaurants and retail spaces (even outdoor spaces), machinery, traffic, radio, television, and of course planes overhead....sometimes I feel bombarded by constant noise.
Do you feel that way too?
I really believe that we weren't made for this kind of existence. And now, science tells us what we aleady know to be true:
We need silence.
We need quiet.
Silence helps our brains function better, and even grow. It helps unclutter our minds so we can be more creative. It unlocks the subconscious part of our brains that is idling in the background so that we can solve problems more easily. It improves our memory.
Silence helps our physical bodies to heal faster by reducing the stress hormone that responds to noise in a "fight or flight" manner. It helps reduce high blood pressure and heart disease.
Quiet reduces anxiety and stress.
Silence simply helps us function better as humans.
Today, let's embrace quiet.
Let's create moments of restfulness that we so desperately need. Sometimes that's easier said than done, I know.
Here are five ways to embrace and incorporate quiet into your day:
1. Simply become mindful of background noise. Be aware that you might be so accustomed to constant sound that quietness may make you feel uncomfortable. Fight through. The benefits of silence are worth it.
2. Turn off your phone. At the very least, turn off notifications on your phone. Smartphones make us less productive when we work, and also less likely to be truly "still." Set your phone out of reach, and check it only at specific times. I've recently removed Facebook and Twitter from my phone and iPad and it feels FABULOUS.
3. Go outside. Breathe the fresh air. Close your eyes. If you are a city-dweller, find a park or take a drive. Nature has a restorative effect on our minds and bodies, and best of all...it's free!
4. Take a bold step and turn off the TV and devices. We recently rearranged our living room and moved the TV to another area. It's still available if we want to watch it, but suddenly my living room feels incredibly calm. I realized I spend as much time surfing the channels (or Netflix) to find something to watch, as actually watching something worthwhile. The quiet encourages me to read or journal...two things I say I want to do but rarely "have the time."
Perhaps set aside one night each week as a "media-free" night. It will change your life.
5. Meditate. Do you have a scripture you've memorized, or are working on memorizing? Bring it to mind and simply think on it. Pray the Lord's Prayer, pausing to digest the words. Or how about the 23rd Psalm? Oh, the comfort! Meditating on, even saying aloud, words like these brings an incredible a sense of peace, no matter what you are facing. It quiets your heart and strengthens your spirit.
Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still and know that I am God." I often think that the noise of our lifestyles keeps us from taking steps toward knowing Him. Because how can we, when we are distracted, hurried and restless? How can we, when a cacophony of sounds crowds every waking moment?
Quiet must be valued.
Silence must be sought out.
Because only then will we be able to listen for that still, small voice.
God is calling you.
Can you hear Him?