Joka van Wijk


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Silence can be golden

It might seem a little contradictory for somebody in the so-called ‘talking profession’ to write about the benefits of silence, but here we go.

The world around us is getting busier, noisier and increasingly frantic. Our jobs and life styles demand instant responses to emails and text messages. All of us check our smart phones on average every 6.5 seconds. Our minds would benefit enormously from regular periods of calmness and silence if only we could find the time for it.

A study at the American university UCLA has found that regular periods of stillness and silence can develop the growth of cells in the cerebral cortex. Just ten minutes a day spent in silence can help us to process the incoming stream of information more effectively.

However it is not just the world around us that is noisy, for many of us most of the clatter is provided internally by our own minds. A constant succession of thoughts and a running commentary can keep us company, long after the working day finishes.

Mindfulness and becoming more aware of our thoughts can help us to become a little more objective. We can watch our thoughts and as an observer make a choice whether to get involved in them or not.

This is easier said than done though. Not only does it require regular practice, for many silence is actually a rather frightening prospect. What happens when we become silent and all our anxieties, fears and everything else we have buried somewhere deep can suddenly surface?

Much easier to fill the silence with Facebook, Whatsapp or the latest series on Netflix. Even in conversations with others we can feel uncomfortable with a silence and fill the gaps with mindless chatter.

Silence however can help us to face the fears and anxieties that are part of life and part of us, but in order to create silence one needs to know where the noise comes from.

A good way to start is by focusing on your breath. Literally feeling your breath will help to drop out of your head and bring your attention into your body. Smiling can help too. It might sound strange, but it can be a way to view thoughts a little more light heartedly.

Practising regularly will help and you can practise everywhere, in a quiet place at home or sitting on a bus. The gaps between the thoughts will come and with practice they will become longer. It is in those gaps where you can find the silence. Finding and knowing it is there can help us to feel stronger and if there are things hiding in that silence that are hard to deal with, you can always find somebody with whom you can talk about it.

Topic: Mindfulness