Journalist and author Ta-Nehisi Coates in an interview with Vox’s Ezra Klein spoke about how thinkers and writers should get off Twitter.
In today’s age of fake news, Coates’ statement was not meant to critique the quality of social media but was instead a need to go beyond the noise.
According to Coates, it requires something all too rare and a somewhat unnoticed element to produce and generate creativity and quality, and that is a quiet time.
Author JK Rowling, psychiatrist Carl Jung, Bill George, California Governor Jerry Brown and Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan are just a few to mention who for themselves have disciplined practice on generating and managing information flow through silence cultivation. They too owe their success to structured periods of silence.
Recent studies have shown that silence or a quiet time sorts of rewires your nervous system, enables energy sustainability and resets and conditions our minds to be more sensitive and adaptive to complex stimuli. In a study by the Duke Medical School’s Imke Kirste that development of new cells in our hippocampus, the brain region responsible for learning and memory, is associated with silence. Even silence in between musical pieces is proved to be stabilising to the cardiovascular and respiratory systems as found by Physician Luciano Bernadi.
However, cultivating silence is not merely stepping out from the noise and distractions from an office setup or social media. Authentic and deep sustained silence go beyond quieting the inner and outer chatter, thus allowing the creative and highly organised thinking skill in you.
This kind of silence rests our habitual mental reflexes and gives a temporary break on the need to think of what to say.
Hal Gregersen wrote in a recent HBR article that cultivating silence “ increase[s] your chances of encountering novel ideas and information and discerning weak signals.” When we continuously address the innate verbal agenda on what to say, write and tweet next, there would be not enough room to cultivate authentic and rational new ideas. It’s in those deeper modes of attention where great ideas are found.
Here are four practical ideas on cultivating silence worth attending.
- At least five minutes of quiet time will do the work. Close your office, find a peaceful hideaway or rest underneath a tree in a park, and you’ll surely reset and engage in silent meditation.
- Get closer to nature. Nothing is more relaxing than taking a plunge and immersing yourself in a natural environment. No need to hike a 2-3 hour trek, go to a nearby woods and let silence flow through. This calms your body and improves your creative thinking capacities.
- Social media fasting. A couple of hours or a day of turning off your email or social media accounts is an excellent way to get off yourself from the hustle and bustle of tracking social media current news and events. This way, you can enjoy the benefits of giving your mind a break and letting real-time events sink in.
- Meditate. Does this mean inhaling positivity and exhaling bad vibes? Well, yes. Journalist Andrew Sullivan described his silent retreat experience as the “ultimate detox” In his words: “My breathing slowed. My brain settled. It was if my brain were moving away from the abstract and the distant toward the tangible and the near.”
In a world full of noise and distraction, there is one free hideaway we can all take access to silence. It just takes commitment and creativity to achieve it.