I’ll start this week of posts based around ’emotional wellbeing’ by saying that I’m not a trained professional but that I’m on my own healing journey and have found these techniques really helpful in my healing process. I don’t claim to be an expert but hope that my experiences will offer some help, however small, to anyone who’s reading who might be in need of this help.
My personal path to ‘quiet time’
I’ve lived through a fairly traumatic set of events/circumstances and found myself, about six months ago, at the Drs surgery, with a suite of strange symptoms: dizziness, headaches, nausea, erratic heart beats, insomnia, amongst others. The Dr, who knew of our personal situation, sat me down, looked me straight in the eyes and told me very clearly that I was suffering from stress and situational anxiety and that I had to do something to calm my mind, otherwise the physical manifestations of the stress would cause serious problems for my health and physical well-being.
It was a wake up call. I knew I was stressed (who wouldn’t have been?!) but I didn’t know, until that moment, that stress can have such far-reaching physical effects (my dizziness was so bad, for example, that I was unable to leave the house, at one point, for fear of fainting outside of my home).
The Dr recommended periods of rest and periods of quiet time, adding that if I could meditate, that would be his preferred remedy.
I got back home, after that appointment, and cried buckets (quite literally). My Dad died sixteen years ago, essentially from stress, his heart giving out one day as he arrived home from work, nothing the paramedics could do as they arrived to try to save him. He was 45.
I’m a single Mum and have two littles who need me still. I run, I ride my bike, I walk everywhere; physically I’ve always been healthy (aside from the consequences of accidents). What was letting me down, it seemed, was my mind. That was worrying in itself!
So, I set to work. I began to meditate (more about that on Thursday). It helped. Enormously. Giving me an inner peace I’ve honestly never had previously and don’t know, now, how I managed to live without for all these years.
The last few months, once I’d found that inner peace during meditation, I decided it was time to find peace in my daily life, to find quiet time where I could ‘hear’ that peace, even when I wasn’t directly meditating.
Forging my quiet time
I began to carve out time from my schedule to have quiet time. It was a conscious act of scheduling time to simply be still and quiet. Ten minutes in the morning and ten minutes in the evening. Twenty minutes out of my day, for me just to be still and quiet.
It’s the best investment of my time I’ve ever made.
These twenty minutes allow me to develop a wider vision of my life, of our lives, to reflect upon what we’re doing (and why) and what changes/tweaks need making to be able to make things better. They provide me with great clarity of thought. They energise me and give me a source of patience and love that comes from somewhere very deep and is, because of this, pretty unshakable.
I invest ten minutes in the morning, for example, and I start my day fresh, energised and with a strong overview of what I need to do that day and – perhaps most importantly – why I need to do those things (I’m a great believer in the power of why). I invest ten minutes in the evening, and I’m able to go to sleep with my mind calmed, my thoughts reined in and my mind still, ready for sleep.
Tranquility – this state of calmness and reflection that I reach during my quiet time – is restorative, in complete contrast to the stress that comes from being busy and rushing through life. When we’re in a state of tranquility, we’re able to more clearly focus on all aspects of our selves and how we, as individuals, affect those around us.
Investing the time in being still, being quiet, pays dividends in terms of the good that will result from the investment, both for ourselves and for the people we interact with.
What do I do during my quiet time?
In the morning, I’ll either have my quiet time sitting in a favourite place at home or I’ll go for a walk (I find nature to be extremely restorative). I start by calming myself and then I run through all the things that are happening in my personal/professional life, and in our personal lives. I’ll ruminate on these issues for a while. Generally, as I relax in to the quiet time, solutions will present themselves, usually ones I hadn’t thought of, and ideas will come to me. [I always keep a notebook handy during this time]. I find my mind wanders anywhere and everywhere and I just observe and listen, noting any and all pathways it takes. [I find ‘quiet time’ a great source of fuel for my creativity].
In the evening, always at home (not walking outside), because I do it when the littles are in bed, I usually start by writing a sentence or two about one or two things each of my littles have done during the day [I started doing this after seeing a post from Becky Higgins here]. I’ve found that focusing on them for a while helps me to ground myself again after the busy-ness of the day. I then write in my gratitude journal (see here and here). This helps me to put everything in perspective: even if my life doesn’t look how I imagined it would look at this stage in my life, I have many many things to be grateful for. That’s a humbling – powerful – process. I then just sit quietly, letting my thoughts meander, telling myself not to worry, giving myself permission, almost, to let the things that I can’t control go. [I often remember that Dale Carnegie quote, “Today is the tomorrow you were so worried about yesterday” – it instantly makes me calm].
Suggestions for other ‘quiet time’ activities
– Choosing to put your smartphone down and sit in silence instead. We’re afraid of being alone with ourselves but if we can’t be alone with ourselves, who can we be truly comfortable and open with, really?
– Listening to your favourite piece of calming music
– Colouring – mandalas are great as their repetitive patterns will sooth you and calm your mind [Type ‘free mandala colouring page’ in to Google or Pinterest and about a million will pop up!]…yes, I know colouring sounds strange (“I have other, more important, things to do than colouring“) but studies have shown that it does help to disengage – and calm – the mind.
– Read a book
– Take a bath or make your shower a spa
– Take a walk in Nature. The Japanese ‘shinrin yoku‘ literally means ‘forest bathing’ and daily walks in Nature have become, in Japan, an important part of preventative health care. Walks in nature have been proven, in research coming out of Japan, to have many health benefits including reduced blood pressure, improved sleep and reductions in stress hormone levels, amongst others (see more here).
Finding time to be quiet
– Tell the people you live with what you’re doing and why, so they respect your quiet time.
– Schedule ten minutes to be quiet: it’s a vital part of your overall well-being as it will help you to take care of your body and your mind. Paraphrasing something that’s attributed to Buddha, “You should find ten minutes a day to be quiet; if you can’t find ten minutes you must find an hour”.
– Make space for quiet time around an existing ritual. Tea at 3? Drinking your afternoon tea could become your quiet time. Bath in the evening? Light some candles and voila! Instant – and ambient – quiet time!
– Do you have lots of currently ‘wasted’ time in your day? Driving to/from work? Waiting around at sports practice etc? Use a portion of that time as your quiet time. Don’t make the default move to grab your phone; be brave and use the time to be quiet.
Benefits of quiet time
– A myriad of health benefits including reduced blood pressure, reductions in physical signs of stress, better sleep quality and length, amongst others.
– An increasing sense of peace and contentment
– An increasing sense of joy and wonder in the world
– An increase in your creativity levels and creative thinking patterns
– Studies in the business literature have shown that quiet time is linked to increased overall productivity (because being quiet strengthens focus and commitment)
The benefits of being still and quiet are so numerous that, were ‘quiet time’ to be bottled and marketed as The Wonder Drug to Combat Many Ills, it would make the clever promotional people billionaires, I’m sure!
If you did manage to get this far (through this really long post!), I hope it’s been helpful and I’m looking forward to talking about journalling tomorrow…I also look forward to hearing whether/how you find quiet time and what the benefits are for you…let me know in the comments! [I’m really interested to hear from you!]