For many of us, this time of year—now through New Year’s—is very busy. There are parties, get-togethers, year-end events, concerts, receptions, and more. In my mind, there are several reasons for this December social crunch. The first is very simple: It’s fun and fulfilling to celebrate various holidays, as well as the completion of another year. From here on out, though, the reasons for our busyness get a little more complicated.
- In our society, being busy is a badge of honor. The more booked your schedule is, the thinking goes, the more “in demand” and important you must be.
- Many of us purposefully fill our lives with endless duties and distractions because the alternative—being alone with ourselves—isn’t attractive. We don’t want to have to think about and process our lives, and we’ve never learned to be comfortably quiet with ourselves.
- We feel compelled to use our time constructively. For many people, sitting and doing nothing feels downright wrong because we think we can’t afford to fit that kind of indulgence into our busy lives.
I definitely understand these reasons for being and staying busy, no matter what time of year it is. There was a time in my life when I was constantly engaged in some activity or other—when being alone with no distractions was a foreign concept to me. But over the years, I’ve come to realize that “quiet time”—in other words, any sort of peaceful reflection like meditation, prayer, breathing exercises, taking a walk, etc.—isn’t something to be avoided. In fact, it’s something we should all cultivate for the sake of our mindsets, well-being, and personal development. Here are a few reasons why. Quiet time:
- …strengthens your ability to focus and lengthens your attention span because your concentration isn’t being pulled in ten different directions.
- …charges your creative juices. Often, you’ll have your best ideas and most imaginative thoughts during your quiet alone time.
- …helps you connect to your innermost thoughts, intentions, desires, and values as you “converse” with yourself…without the often-distracting opinions of others.
- …improves your attitude and puts you in better control of your life, because it gives you space and time each day to reconnect to your most important goals and dreams.
- …can help you decompress and relax at the end of a hectic day. (And those seem to occur quite frequently this time of year!)
- …can slow down your heart rate and even lower your blood pressure!
Throughout your life—and especially in the midst of busy seasons like the end-of-year social swirl—it’s important to proactively carve out quiet time in order to relieve stress, recenter yourself, and check in to make sure your life is reflecting your values. My best advice is to approach quiet time as though it were any other essential activity (which, in my mind, it is!): Plan ahead of time when you want to do it.
Personally, I meditate in the evenings. I find that taking 20 minutes around 7 p.m. is a wonderful way to process everything that’s happened throughout my day and to clarify my intentions about what I want to accomplish most in the future. I have also talked to many people who say that quiet time at the beginning of the day is helpful in developing a sense of deep-seated peace and a positive attitude that lasts through the day. Here are a few other ways to fit quiet time into your schedule:
- Turn off the radio during your commute to and from work. This period of time might not be totally distraction-free, but I bet you’ll still be surprised by how peaceful the relative solitude can be.
- Bundle up and go for a walk. If you bring your mp3 player, make sure the music you play isn’t intrusive. You’ll reap twice the benefits from this activity, because exercise is a form of physical meditation and is itself a great way to boost your brain, creativity, and mood. (In fact, some of my greatest ideas and personal revelations have occurred to me while I was exercising with no other distractions.)
- Build in a buffer zone before you go to bed. Don’t turn the TV off and immediately crawl under the covers. Instead, dim the lights and meditate, pray, or reflect on the day for a few minutes before getting in bed and going to sleep.
- Instead of eating in the office break room or watching TV while you down your meal, set up a lunch date with yourself. Use the time to really savor your food and think about whatever occurs to you.
I think you’ll be surprised by the impact the “sound of silence” can have on your mental, emotional, and even physical well-being. So in the midst of accepting social invitations and connecting with your friends and loved ones, set up a few distraction-less dates with yourself. A few minutes alone each day is a small price to pay for increased happiness!
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