De-stress, Unwind: The True Value of Silence

Is stress driving you round the bend? Do you feel something has to give in your life? There is a simple remedy: Silence
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Check out your soundscape at the moment. What do you hear?

I bet it’s not waves lapping at the shore, or a dawn chorus! It’s more likely to be traffic noise, or music, or the neighbors TV, or a distant police siren, or voices in the street – especially if you live in a big city.

What I remember most about my one visit to New York was the fact that I could always hear a siren somewhere in the distance. There was always the sound of an ambulance racing to hospital or police rushing to a disaster. This leads to noise stress.

Some of the noises we are subjected too are unavoidable. But maybe you choose to be in a noisy environment? Let me ask you some questions: Do you play music a lot of the time? Do you leave the TV playing whilst you do other tasks? If so, you are adding to noise stress.

Our central nervous system responds to each sound. In response, hormones course through our body, our heart-rate rises or falls, our blood pressure changes.

Some sounds are so calming, they act as lullabies. Imagine camping near a stream in the wilds. You can hear the soft wind in trees, a brook tinkling nearby, the evening song of birds: your mind expands and your body relaxes. Even just imagining such sounds can make you feel more relaxed. But ad to the mix the crunch of steps closing in, or the roar of a tiger and your body immediately responds with high alert!

Sounds are outer noise. But there is also inner noise.

Take a moment to observe what thoughts are rushing though your mind. Most likely you’ll notice a jumble of thoughts. Some may be worries,  “Oh, what’ll happen if …” Others may be plans, “I must ring her and let her know…” And then there are random thoughts, memories, flashes of insight, melody jingles, images – rather like a crazy warehouse stuffed to the roof.
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Particularly pesky are the planning thoughts. The more stressed we are, the more often they appear in our brain. Mostly because we are worried about forgetting them. A good way to deal with them is to write them down.

Other sticky thoughts are ones that are fuelled by intense emotion, such as anger, jealousy, or fear. The underlying emotion triggers the particular thought again and again. One way to deal with that is to pinpoint and mention the relevant emotion.

Another way to deal with pressing thoughts is to do a full-on workout.  Try a run, a yoga class, martial arts training, an aerobics workout.

A great way to create space and silence in your mind is to meditate. If you aren’t sure to meditate, check out my article How to Start Meditating: 10 Important Tips.

They key to peacefulness is to let go of  both outer and inner noise to eliminate stress.

If you want to simplify your life and reduce stress, try silence.

Here are some suggestions that will help you reduce stress:

  1. Eliminate background music. Only play music if you are going to listen to it with full attention.
  2. Turn the TV off if you are not watching it.
  3. Sleep with earplugs if your street is noisy
  4. Clear your mind with daily exercise
  5. Meditate daily for at least 10 minutes.
    .

Enjoy these related articles:

How to Meditate: 10 Important Tips

What is Natural Spirituality?

Save the World – One Breath at a Time

How to Make Life Spacious


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{ 46 comments }

1 CG Walters September 29, 2008 at 9:20 am

This is a very important message, Mary…the ‘background noise’–inner or outer–is particularly a good point.
thank you!
Many blessings to you and all you hold dear,
CG

CG Walterss last blog post..Serialization of Sacred Vow: Djalma

2 Mary Jaksch September 29, 2008 at 10:00 am

Hi CG!
Yes, sometimes we get so used to background noise that we don’t hear it any more. But it still disturbs us on a subliminal level.

3 Avani-Mehta September 29, 2008 at 10:18 am

I sometimes take a vow of silence for an hour or two – which basically means I don’t converse with anyone in any form and don’t watch tv, read, use computer, listen to music etc (any other way to engage mind). It’s amazing how much silent our mind gets and how much peaceful one can feel after this.

4 Mary Jaksch September 29, 2008 at 10:20 am

Hi Avani-Metha!
What a fabulous idea! I’ve heard of Trappists taking a life-time vow of silence, but it’s a wonderful idea to take a vow of silence for and hour or two. I’ll try it!

5 Nathalie Lussier from Billionaire Woman September 29, 2008 at 10:34 am

This is such an important topic, especially since we are living more and more in loud cities. I especially like the idea that we should eliminate inner noise too!

Great ideas, I am looking at music differently already.

Nathalie Lussier from Billionaire Womans last blog post..Self-Employment: One Selfish Way to Financial Independence

6 zzyzx September 29, 2008 at 11:03 am

We recently opened up the house after a Georgia summer of A/C. Amazing to hear church bells tolling the hours from inside our still house.

7 Mary Jaksch September 29, 2008 at 11:11 am

Hi Nathalie!
I’m in Buenos Aires at the moment. The noise is incredible! My partner David also likes to play tango music a lot of the time. I find that level of noise difficult. It’s a relief to do some meditation and find some inner stillness.

8 Mary Jaksch September 29, 2008 at 11:12 am

Hi zzyzx!
Churchbells surrounded by silence. Will someone please teleport me there immediately!

9 John Hollandsworth September 29, 2008 at 12:51 pm

Great post!
I’m reminded of 2 sci-fi short stories I read years ago.
In one there is background music everywhere in society, & one man who realizes he just wants some silence is eventually put into an insane asylum.
The other is about a man shipwrecked on a “deserted” planet, who over months is able to start hearing beautiful music generated by the planet & its inhabitants on another plane, & when he is “rescued” & brought back to earth when he is still approaching earth he starts screaming “Oh, the horrible noise!” & flees.

John Hollandsworths last blog post..Four Pillars of an Effective Life Purpose

10 Evelyn Lim September 29, 2008 at 12:53 pm

I like Avani’s idea too: the vow of silence. I usually tell my family members that I need to go into my cave. I’ll be in there until I am ready to come out.

Evelyn Lims last blog post..Building The Businesses Of Our Dreams

11 Amanda Linehan September 29, 2008 at 2:27 pm

I think silence can be scary at times – because you never know what you are going to get when you clear out the distractions. But it can also lead you towards things you never expected!

Turning off the music when I’m not fully engaged with it – that’s one I need to remember!

Amanda Linehans last blog post..Use Self Reflection To Get Some Direction

12 Chris - Zen to Fitness September 29, 2008 at 3:42 pm

Really good post. I notice I become more sensitive to sound when I am nervous or stressed out making me quire jumpy. Your tip for sleeping wit ear plugs is something I have done for a long time and love; it helps me get to sleep far quicker! Thanks for the tips…….

Chris – Zen to Fitnesss last blog post..Are Multi-Vitamins Worth Taking?

13 Mary Jaksch September 29, 2008 at 4:57 pm

Hi John!
I like the 2 scifi stories!

14 Mary Jaksch September 29, 2008 at 4:59 pm

Hi Evelyn!
My family is very respectful of my meditation practice. So, that’s the ‘cave’ I go into until I’m ready to interact with noise again.

15 Mary Jaksch September 29, 2008 at 5:01 pm

Hi Amanda!
Yes, when the mind is silent we step into unknown territory. We step off the map!

16 Mary Jaksch September 29, 2008 at 5:03 pm

Hi Chris!
I too find loud music more difficult to bear when I’m uptight. I’ve given my partner David an iPod for his birthday so that he can listen to his music with earphones :-)

17 greatmanagement September 29, 2008 at 5:43 pm

Great simple post – thanks.

It reminds of when driving I love the radio on or a cd playing…

…but as soon as I get lost or don’t know where I am going…

…that irritating radio noise just has to go NOW!

One second love it…the next HATE it!

Andrew

greatmanagements last blog post..Conquer The Fear Of Public Speaking

18 Scott McIntyre September 29, 2008 at 8:44 pm

This is very useful advice on how to deal with the assault on our ears which can lead to stress, Mary.

It is wonderful to be able to find a calm oasis amongst the hubub of life.

Something which I did when I was at university might sound a little unusual…

I found that, when I was experiencing a little more stress- particularly at exam times- I would play the ‘white noise’ on my stereo.

For me, this was a brilliant way of ‘tuning out’ all other noises and focusing instead on the issue at hand.

I guess it worked because the brain isn’t able to catch onto any particular noise to distract it.

Instead, the constant sound allowed me to either relax completely or else concentrate more on the matter in front of me.

I know it might sound a little strange- but it worked for me, and I guess that’s what matters. ;-)

19 Mark McCullagh September 30, 2008 at 2:41 am

Silence and spending quiet time is so important.

And it is so unfortunate that as a society we appear to be moving away from this consciousness.

I mean, it is almost rare to see a person NOT on their cell phone – either talking or texting. How sad.

There are so many inspiring quotes from saints and scripture regarding silence, and I love this one from Mother Teresa:

“If we really want to pray, we must first learn to listen, for in the silence of the heart, God speaks.”

Mark McCullaghs last blog post..Affiliate Marketing Strategy: Combining the Power of Blogging and Social Marketing

20 porillion September 30, 2008 at 5:05 am

“Here are some suggestions that will help you reduce stress:

” 1. Eliminate background music. Only play music if you are going to listen to it with full attention.
” 2. Turn the TV off if you are not watching it.
” 3. Sleep with earplugs if your street is noisy
” 4. Clear your mind with daily exercise
” 5. Meditate daily for at least 10 minutes.”

I can wholeheartedly agree with all five. Though I admit I’m not so good at the second one!

Thanks again, Mary.

porillions last blog post..Persistent Migraine Aura & Visual Snow (Part One)

21 Mary Jaksch September 30, 2008 at 9:43 am

Hi greatmanagement!
Yes – one minute I can listen to music quite happily – and then I just CAN’T STAND IT! I have been known to shout at my partner: “Turn the bl..dy thing OFF!”
Luckily he’s very easy-going and nothing disturbs his sunny disposition.

22 Mary Jaksch September 30, 2008 at 9:45 am

Hi Scott!
White noise?? How do you get that on your mp3 player?
I suppose a similar thing is to listen to recording of rain on leaves, or ocean waves.

23 Mary Jaksch September 30, 2008 at 9:48 am

Hi Mark!
Thanks for this lovely quote:
“If we really want to pray, we must first learn to listen, for in the silence of the heart, God speaks.”

It’s interesting that many religious traditions invite practitioners to listen deeply – with the whole mind and body. For example in Zen there is a well-known koan: “What is the sound of a single hand?”

24 Mary Jaksch September 30, 2008 at 9:50 am

Hi porillion!

I think that having the TV run in the back-ground is sometimes connected to a feeling of loneliness. It gives the illusion of being with others.

25 Alli Gerkman September 30, 2008 at 9:56 am

Great post. I’m vacationing on Grand Traverse Bay in Michigan and was just out kayaking after a rain. The silence and the stillness were striking. I’d like to take a little of that back home.

Alli Gerkmans last blog post..Still Don’t Get the Difference Between Social Media and Traditional Marketing?

26 Mary Jaksch September 30, 2008 at 10:10 am

Hi Alli!
That kayak trip sounds wonderful!

It’s interesting that silence and stillness aren’t the same. I’m thinking of times I’ve been deep in the New Zealand bush. I could hear natural sounds, such a birdsong and the sound of rushing water – but I experienced it as great stillness. Although it wasn’t silent.

What was your experience of this on your kayak trip?

27 WebFadds September 30, 2008 at 11:08 am

Hi -

Great post. Tai Chi works for me, and the slow movements may be used as meditation in the early morning or evening for a wonderful bout of silence. Thanks for a great blog.
- Scott

28 Andre Kibbe September 30, 2008 at 12:32 pm

This is a great topic to call people’s attention to, especially for those of us who live in cities. It’s increasingly difficult to find a public space where speakers or plasma TVs aren’t pumping in sound. I don’t having music in the background when I consciously decide to do so, but the idea of filling every moment with a soundtrack is definitely unappealing. Thanks for the post.

Andre Kibbes last blog post..Using Po to Generate and Restructure Ideas

29 Amit September 30, 2008 at 12:35 pm

Meditation is for me is a means to less worrying, less calculating, less judging, less regretting and less controlling! Living in the present ..here and now..that is when the mind is still!

Thanks for the great blog post!

Amits last blog post..Love is the Answer!

30 Mary Jaksch September 30, 2008 at 4:51 pm

Hi Scott!
I love the way you said, “…a bout of silence”. I looked up the word ’bout’ in the dictionary. It said that ’bout’ means “a short period of illness or intense activity.” I think it’s very interesting to think of silence as a period of intense activity.

Usually we think of silence as being the opposite. ‘a bout of silence’…I like it!

31 Mary Jaksch September 30, 2008 at 4:58 pm

Hi Andre!
I usually live in New Zealand where one can get away from noise of the city and enjoy the natural sounds of wilderness.

But right now I’m in the heart of Buenos Aires. There is no place to hide form the constant noise of the city: Busses rumbling, police sirens wailing, cars honking, music spilling from bars, political demonstrators shouting slogans and singing rousing songs, people laughing, crying, singing, and on and on and on.

32 Mary Jaksch September 30, 2008 at 5:00 pm

Hi Amit!
That’s a lovely description of meditation!

33 Vman October 1, 2008 at 12:42 am

I must say that I’m a fan your website and this is another wonderful article.

I’m lucky because I live in a peaceful suburb, and I love to ride a bike around in silence. It provides me with a time to self reflect. But funnily enough, we are studying inner journeys in English at school. I live in the outer suburbs of Sydney, Australia, where peaceful suburbs still exist (and I hope it stays that way)

34 Mary Jaksch October 1, 2008 at 1:16 am

Hi Vman!
Yes, time to self-reflect is precious. My sense is that silence if a necessary part of an inner journey.

What I mean is, how can we know what our calling is, if we don’t listen to the call?

35 Hoyt Oftedahl November 19, 2011 at 4:19 pm

“Success isn’t permanent, and failure isn’t fatal.”

36 Tycoon Dreamer | Tycoon Dreams October 2, 2008 at 1:43 am

I love sitting by myself in silence. By nature, I’m an introspective person. But it’s sometimes a point of difference between me and my girlfriend. She says that we never talk. I suppose I have to find the right balance. :)

Tycoon Dreamer | Tycoon Dreamss last blog post..What Can Mastermind Groups Do For You?

37 Martin October 2, 2008 at 1:00 pm

A tip for masking annoying noises that you can’t silence is using an electric fan. The white noise produced is good at masking annoying noises.

Martins last blog post..Setting and Achieving Goals

38 Mary Jaksch October 3, 2008 at 4:30 am

Hi Tycoon Dreamer!
It’s difficult to find a right balance – without being bent out of our natural way of being too much.

Your girlfriend’s comment could also mean: “We never talk about our feeling.”

39 Mary Jaksch October 3, 2008 at 4:31 am

Hi Martin!
Personally, I find the whirr of fans quite irritating…

40 Maya October 3, 2008 at 8:23 am

Hi Mary,
Just subscribed.
“pesky planning thoughts” – I am totally with you on that one. I am always overplanning in my head ….even a blog post just tumbles over and over in my brain while I go about my day.
I use pen and paper method. Take sime time, put it all down on paper and then do something like a hot bath to enjoy my clear head. Perfect way of managing my stress.

Mayas last blog post..The key to happiness and balance is right with you, just learn to use it – Part 1 of the thinkmaya framework

41 Mary Jaksch October 3, 2008 at 12:34 pm

Hi Maya!
Welcome to GoodifeZen!
You say: “a blog post just tumbles over and over in my brain while I go about my day.”

I have the same problem. Unfortunately it’s the way my creativity works. I walk about pregnant with a new idea. It seems that I’m thinking about it. But the thoughts are not quite in my consciousness yet.

If I let the ideas tumble around in my head without trying to stop them, suddenly the article is sharp and clear and I can sit down and write.

42 Stacey / Create a Balance October 4, 2008 at 3:58 am

I love silence. Walking in the woods, curled up in my bed, driving in the car, painting at the studio. I crave the simple lack of noise!

Stacey / Create a Balances last blog post..Yes, Oprah Really Did Call Me

43 Karen October 5, 2008 at 3:13 pm

I have retreated to my apartment for a few days to get a break from life and the hassles only to do what needs to be done. For a mini vacation so to speak. I have only music I enjoy. I am recuperating from a low immune cold and stress and feeling run down. I am soaking up the quiet and moving slow and just doing the tea and what needs be. The quiet is healing and good for me. There has been too much excitement with politics and the world. I need the quiet and have not been in my quiet place enough lately. So, now I am grabbing it while I can this weekend. It is worth it. Namaste friends. And much peace to you.

44 TKSellman October 16, 2008 at 12:02 pm

Just spent 5 days alone in a 100-year-old Forest Service cabin to “de-jam.” The only sounds I heard were nibbling mice in the attic, the birds outside, the rain, and a random local car driving by (I could hear it from miles away). Oh, and my own breathing, my own heartbeat.

De-Jam: It’s my term for quiet healing and originates from the lyrics to the Tom Petty song, “You’re Jammin’ Me.” I can live with some outer noise, but it’s the inner noise that has to be purged periodically.

Let me tell you, if you think a physical detox is a good idea, then this will be even better. I could literally fill my lungs with air at the end of my time, which I had to struggle to do before I left, such is the way I hold my tension.

Thanks for reminding us of the value of silence.

TKSellmans last blog post..Straight Ticket voters, Attention!

45 Mary Jaksch October 16, 2008 at 2:54 pm

Hi TKSellman!
Your five days sound absolutely wonderful! I could use that right now :-)

46 Amanda August 8, 2010 at 10:57 am

What a nice site. Just discovered it tonight and am excited to see other people journeying.
I haven’t read all the messages yet, but the hour or so vow of silence touched me. I have often wanted to do a sponsored silence, but now i know i just want to be silent for the sake of silence. Will do it. Thank you for sharing that.
xx

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