A Case for QuietAug 03, 2023
We know that technology, social media and noise are everywhere we turn. And one of the hardest things to come by these days is quiet, especially inside our own heads.
In today’s podcast episode I’m making a case for increasing the amount of quiet and solitude in your life and giving you some thoughts and ideas on how to be a more conscious consumer of the noise in your life.
This isn’t a rant on the evils of social media or a way to villainize technology. It’s really about taking back control of your own life and putting yourself firmly in charge of what gets your attention and energy.
Why Are We So Uncomfortable With Quiet?
As I’ve been training for my upcoming swimrun event, there has been a lot of time in the pool. And in the pool, it’s just me and my brain - no podcasts, no music, nothing to distract me from my own thoughts.
And I have felt so anxious. I feel this sense of urgency to hurry and get out of the pool, get on with the rest of my day and get back to my phone in case someone needs me. I’m anxious and impatient when I’m inaccessible or not doing multiple things at once.
Maybe you’ve noticed this in other areas of your life, too: A wandering mind in church or during a conversation with a friend. Feeling compelled to scroll on your phone, even while you're already watching a TV show or movie.
This happens for a couple of big reasons.
Your phone is made to give your brain exactly what it wants
Your brain is doing exactly what it is designed to do, but it’s also working with some pretty ancient programming. Our brains are programmed for survival, and we get messages about what is happening, what’s dangerous and what’s useful through our communication with others.
But communication has moved far beyond a one-on-one human conversation. Now you’re receiving these messages via notifications from all kinds of platforms. We’re having a completely different social experience with the same ancient hardware.
Your brain doesn’t know what to do with all these notifications, but it thinks they are all important, which is why you feel anxious when you're not by your phone. We are living in constant fear that something important is being missed.
The reward system of the brain
Your phone is like a slot machine, and dopamine is the payout. Just like you continue pulling the handle on the slot machine because you never know when you’re going to win, you never know when you’re going to get a message on your phone, so you have to be constantly checking.
Our brains are designed to seek that dopamine hit, and when we’re overstimulated and getting more artificial dopamine, our brain stops producing it naturally.
When we’re away from our phones and have a dopamine deficit, it is very uncomfortable. We feel more anxious, and when our brains can’t stand to be still, quiet or bored, our attention spans become shorter and shorter.
Making A Case for Quiet
Most of us are aware of the fact that the more time we spend on screens, the worse we feel. And that when it’s uncomfortable to be away from it, we tend to go right back.
We end up trading so much of our lives for a digital experience of other people's lives. We keep swiping and swiping, but we are never fully satisfied. It is eroding the quality of our lives and the relationship we have with ourselves.
Here are a few reasons how a little more quiet might help you feel better.
Downtime allows you to process what you're seeing, hearing and experiencing
Our brains are processing a lot of input from other people’s minds - social media, emails, news stories, podcasts. The processing happens when it’s quiet, within the solitude of your brain.
We need a break from the energy drain, some space to let our brains rest and regenerate.
Improve your relationship with yourself
Listening to your own thoughts, opinions and desires is crucial for your self development, creativity and decision making.
We live in a world where there's so much access to other people's thoughts, we start to second-guess and devalue our own. If your brain is constantly processing information from other people, it doesn't have time to know itself and its own desires.
You have good ideas. Your take on the world, your story, and your thoughts are valuable.
Stop missing out on your life
We are numbing ourselves from the actual experience of our lives. It’s so easy to distract ourselves from our emotions or passively observe other people’s lives and thoughts.
I want you to have the chance to experience the fullness, the depth and breadth and emotion of your life.
How To Create More Quiet
You don’t have to give up your phone or quit social media to create more quiet space in your life. You can simply start by bringing your attention to it and make conscious decisions about what you want more of in your life and what you’re consuming.
If you can create more space for quiet and solitude, you’ll gain back so much, like time, meaning, feeling, clarity, creativity, connection, attention and concentration.
Step 1: Be more intentional
Decide ahead of time what devices and platforms you will use, as well as how and when you’ll use them. Create a plan for when and how long you’ll practice increasing the quiet.
Step 2: Increase the resistance
Like with any habit you’re trying to break, you need to make it harder to do. For example, take your social media apps off your phone and only check them from your computer.
Step 3: Expect and allow the discomfort
There are powerful forces at play here, and your brain is going to feel much more anxious when you first step away. Not only are you missing the constant entertainment and dopamine, you’re also missing the distraction from your own thoughts and feelings. This discomfort is normal, and it will get better over time.
Step 4: Replace it with things you love
Get back in touch with the things that are important to you. How do you want to spend your downtime if you’re not on your phone? What do you want to insert into your life that would be meaningful?
Step 5: Be the unfailing protector of your attention
Your attention is the greatest resource you have. If you don’t protect it, it will get sucked up unintentionally and disappear. If we don't guard our attention, we're going to waste our lives on things that don't matter to us.
I want you to make the most of your life and to have the greatest quality of that life. In our modern world, it will involve technology, but you get to be in charge. Every moment, we are creating our lives. Make sure that you are creating the life you love.
- What I’ve noticed about my own concentration and attention span
- Why we are so uncomfortable with quiet
- The connection between your phone and a Vegas slot machine
- 5 simple ways to increase the amount of time you spend in quiet, with your own thoughts
Mentioned In This Episode:
- Lead Yourself First: Inspiring Leadership Through Solitude by Raymond M. Kethledge and Michael S. Erwin
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