When is the last time you experienced true silence? In today’s world, we often use downtime in the car, waiting in line, or at home to consume more information – we look at email, peruse social media, or listen to a podcast.
In the same vein, I have worked with clients who are accustomed to switching on the TV as soon as they get home to have some entertainment playing in the background as they go about their routine.
There is nothing wrong with consuming information. However, it’s important to consider how a constant influx of information influences your ability to pay attention to what’s most important.
As Herbert Simon aptly says, “A wealth of information means a poverty of attention.”
When we are constantly looking outside ourselves for entertainment, we have little time to process our experiences and rest in the present moment.
One way to let your mind settle and improve your ability to pay attention is to have a regular practice of silence. Here are some simple ways to incorporate more silence into your daily routine.
- Bring awareness to patterns: Start by noticing when you reach for distractions or entertainment to avoid silence. Bring curiosity rather than judgment to your existing patterns. You don’t have to make changes right away – the practice of awareness gives you the power to do things differently when you are ready.
- Drive in silence: Notice how it feels to turn off the radio, put down your phone, and fully focus on driving. Orienting toward multiple inputs (the traffic, the music, and the cell phone) can be exhausting for your mind. Practice driving in silence and using your five senses to tune into your surroundings as you drive.
- Spend time in nature: Spending time in nature (especially without electronics) can be extremely rejuvenating for the mind and body. Stephen Kaplan’s “Attention Restoration Theory” demonstrates that spending time in nature, or even gazing at photographs of nature, restores our ability to pay attention.
- Disengage from technology: Practice a daily “digital detox” for 15-75 minutes a day. This short rejuvenating break from screens and audio content will allow you to fully connect with the people and the environment around you. (Hint: Try making family mealtime a no-tech zone.)
- Practice mindfulness meditation: A daily mindfulness meditation practice offers the space to practice returning to the present moment. Even if you use guided meditations and/or instrumental music, the safe container for self-exploration can be supportive and restorative for your mind and body.
Enjoy your time in silence! Next week we will further explore the power of silence by discussing silent meditation retreats.
Dorsey Standish is the Chief Mindfulness Officer at Mastermind Meditate in Dallas. Her mindfulness practice has helped her succeed at a Fortune 500 tech company, overcome mental illness, and ultimately connect more deeply with those around her. Dorsey’s teachings combine neuroscience research with her experiences in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program and multiple weekend, 7-day and 10-day silent meditation retreats. Join Dorsey for one of Mastermind’s upcoming applied mindfulness trainings at mastermindmeditate.com/programs.