Life can be noisy and hectic. From commuting and working in an office, to socialising, doing chores and spending time with family, many women are constantly on the go and rarely enjoying quiet time. Even when we are alone, we’re usually attached to a smartphone or tablet, watching TV or listening to music on our earphones. It’s very easy, these days, to avoid ever being alone with yourself, in silence, with no external stimulation, and that could mean we are missing out on some vital well-being benefits.
Why quiet time is necessary
A recent study from the University of Rochester in the US found that having quiet time on your own calms strong emotions, both positive and negative.
“In the experiment, people sat alone for 15 minutes with no devices, and afterwards they reported feeling a reduction in intense emotions of all kinds – both excitement and joy, but also anger and anxiety,” says Bella DePaulo, a psychologist who specialises in solitude. “They felt more relaxed and more peaceful.” The advantage of that, she adds, is that you become better equipped to reflect on feelings without reacting to them immediately. You’re likely to feel less stressed and will be able to make better decisions.
What’s more, quietening down can help you think more clearly and sharpen your mind. Studies found background noise is bad for the brain, as dealing with it draws on the same mental resources as short-term memory. You can also use silence to boost your mood. Another US study on nurses found that having small amounts of quiet time, with the lights down low, helped lower feelings of stress.
Bella explains research has found that while all strong emotions are turned down when you’re having quiet time, if you use that time to actively reflect on positive things, you’ll feel calmer without losing more upbeat feelings, such as enthusiasm. Try writing doing a list of things for which you’re grateful before you sit down for some peaceful time – you’ll emerge on the other side feeling more confident and upbeat.
Listen to yourself
Trying to reach a decision about something? Quiet time can put you in touch with your inner wisdom. Reiki master Sarah Varela explains, “Regularly spending time by yourself, with no distractions, helps you work out what your gut is telling you. It’s only when you’re quiet and alone that you can start to understand those messages.
For example, if you have a niggling sense of unease about something, is it just anxiety getting in the way, or is your subconscious trying to warn you about something real? Conversely, is that excitement you’re experiencing a sign this is a good move, or are you just getting carried away with the idea of having a change? Taking the time to sit down with your feelings, calmly, can help you hear the answers from your intuition.”
Easy ways to build in quiet time
Carve out 10 minutes for yourself by turning any daily activity into quiet meditation, whether it’s taking a shower or getting ready for work. A simple shower can feel like a full spa treatment if you immerse yourself in the experience rather than just worrying about to-do lists. Concentrate on the drops of water hitting your skin and use a body scrub to gently massage and boost blood circulation.
Sit in silence
For a relaxing break, sit in silence and eat a square of dark chocolate with a cup of hot tea – don’t do anything else. Focus on taste, texture and smell, relishing the experience – and no multitasking! If you really must do something, write a list of the experiences, relationships and emotions that you are grateful for.
Schedule time alone
Take a quiet moment, close your eyes and focus inwards. Now ask yourself what would be the most beneficial way for you to spend your day. “Just see what comes,” says life coach, Jayne Morris. You might want to connect with a friend, or if you’re always with people – as working moms often are – solitude might be what you need. Pick something that’s special to you and will take your mind off your worries. You might want to use the time to reset your priorities.
Jayne recommends taking five Post-its and writing down the five things most important to you, whether that’s work, friends, family or hobbies. Put them in order of importance, then reorder according to the time you spend on each. “People often find work is number one in terms of time, but that might be the least important of their priorities,” claims Jayne. “This shows you where things are out of whack, and you can spend some time thinking about how you can change your situation and schedule more time for yourself.”
TOP TIP: Set aside this time in your diary and tell work and family that you’ll be out of reach except for emergencies. That way – hopefully – they’ll think twice before disturbing you.