The ever more connected, fast-developing digital world brings us so many opportunities. We can connect with, speak to and work with people thousands of miles away. Having information at our fingertips allows us to learn new things, often for free, on almost any topic in existence. We can know what’s going on across the globe at any time, we’re more informed than we’ve ever been. We can create our own social media profiles, websites and digital tools which allow us to express, share and contribute to this vast cloud of information. In many ways, it’s amazing and expansive.
As with most things, there are also downsides.
One of the downsides to this heavily digital era is information overload. There are many social media platforms with endless newsfeeds filling our brain with content. Our list of Zoom calls and notifications never seems to end. Whether we’re watching a cat video or having a video chat, reading a Twitter thread or checking WhatsApp, listening to a podcast or watching a movie, reading the news or looking at pictures – it’s like a tidal wave of digitalised information going into our head day in day out.
We’ve gone from living in small tribes to small communities to cities, to being globally connected. We’ve gone from knowing information about a neighbouring tribe to a neighbouring community, to a neighbouring city, to any country on the planet. The wider our network of information, the more mental noise we experience.
Just like overloading an electrical circuit can blow an appliance, does overloading our minds blow our brains?! I think it might.
In amongst all this noise, it’s important we make space for silence. Here are five reasons why:
1. Silence regenerates the brain
During silence, our brain is learning and assimilating information and regenerating brain cells. This is just like our body muscles which regenerate and grow during rest after a physical workout. If we go for a run and push ourselves too far or don’t rest in between workouts, we will cause damage. I wonder if the same goes for the brain when we’re on information overload? Maybe that’s why we get headaches and feel so tired after too much screen time and scrolling. It’s our brain telling us it needs to rest, it needs silence. Silence is important for brain health.
2. Silence brings peace
Whilst incessant noise creates stress and tension, silence relieves it. It’s no coincidence that effective wellbeing modalities like meditation involve silence and tuning out external stimuli. When I take moments of silence, peace washes over me almost instantaneously and I experience a wonderful stillness that anchors me in the present moment. Sometimes, I just listen to silence. It’s beautiful.
3. Silence increases self-awareness
When I am in silence, I become more sensitive to everything going on inside me – my thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, my intuition and my own quiet presence and energy. This helps me build my self-awareness which is essential for anyone who wants to develop themselves. Many people run to the next self-help book or training course looking for more information to insert into their brains – not realising that a fundamental part of personal growth is to become aware of the information that is already in their brain. Silence helps you to do this.
4. Silence improves mental focus
When I’m experiencing information overload, my mind becomes like a washing machine on a fast spin cycle. Every thought grabs my attention for a second and then it’s whisked away, to be replaced by the next and the next and the next. This follows through to my behaviour where like a headless chicken I dart from one thing to the next and struggle to focus on a specific task. Silence helps me to slow down and stop the spin cycle. It helps me to create space and clarity in my mind, I become more contemplative, deliberate and focussed. I can choose thoughts and behaviours to focus on, rather than taking whatever the spin cycle throws at me.
5. Silence increases creativity
I love to learn. I’m always learning and because of the internet, I can never run out of things to learn. However, I also want to create my own content for other people to learn from. I’ve noticed that the more ‘brain space’ I take up with absorbing other people’s content, the less ‘brain space’ I have to create my own. To create my blogs, training courses, videos and so on, I need to create silence and space in my mind so I can think, consciously, clearly and deliberately. In silence I can hear my own intuition and use my imagination, I can simmer on ideas, I can really hone my focus as a creator. Silence is the fertile soil in which new ideas sprout.
If I’ve sold you on the importance of silence and you want to bring more of it into your life, here are a few quick tips:
Take silence breaks – do this regularly throughout the day, even if just for a minute. You may like to do a longer and more structured meditation practice. Put it on your ‘to-do list, mark it in your diary, set reminders on your phone. Go sit in the park or, just close your eyes at your desk. Maybe even buy some noise-cancelling headphones if you’re in a noisy household or a busy city. Just take time out to listen to the silence.
Really listen to it.
Choose books over digital information – nowadays, we can barely read or watch anything online without being swamped by pop ups, adverts, ‘next video’ queues and all manner of distractions that scatter your focus and create more mental noise. Choose a book instead. It’s just you, some words on a page and silence.
Be aware of resistance – when we turn off external noise, internal noise – our own thoughts and feelings – can get louder. Many people struggle with a racing mind, negative and worrisome thoughts and emotions which can really stop them from enjoying silence and even avoiding it at all costs. Being with ourselves is not always easy but it is key to taming the very mind that harangues you, the very mind that is only made more problematic by information overload. If you want to master yourself, you need to be with yourself, in silence.
Now that you’ve finished reading this, I encourage you to take a minute of silence before you move on.
Read more about Pinky Jangra and her other articles HERE