Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 20, 2013

Mental Wellness: Taking time to hear silence

BY JOSEPH SANOK
Special to the Record-Eagle

---- — I have a hard time sitting still.

When I get to work I turn on music. When I wait in line at the store, I check my phone for emails. I brainstorm new ideas for projects while I’m driving and listening to the radio. I allow myself to do this because I frame it around productivity and efficiency. In reality, I have a hard time with silence.

Times in my life when I have been silent usually start out really hard. I go through a period of withdrawals, I reach for my phone or wish that music was playing. But then something switches, I start to be present in the moment, think less about the past and future, and actively participate in the present.

Sabbath

Most cultures and religions have some version of a Sabbath, a day of rest. These are sometimes lumped together in festivals or on a regular basis. About six months ago, I began taking a rest from technology for one day a week. It’s not just technology, but anything that has to do with work.

Noticing our bodies

When our pace of life, eating and sleep habits continues on the trajectory of the average American, our bodies absorb that stress. It is usually in the form of inflammation. Slowing down and sitting in the uncomfortable silence gives us time to feel what is happening in our bodies.

Allowing for presence

We all breathe, but we each breathe different from one another. The average person only breathes about 40 percent of their lung capacity. That means that nasty old air is sitting in the lungs. Oxygen helps with thinking, blood flow, and is a vital function of life. Unlike our pulse or blood pressure, we have control over the depth and frequency of our breathing. Deeper breathing is associated with lower blood pressure, which can help with reducing heart attacks, stroke, and dementia.

When we return to patterns and rhythms similar to our ancestors and go against our modern pace of rejecting silence, our lives are more healthy and balanced, even if it means standing in line without looking at our cell phones.

Joseph R. Sanok is a licensed professional counselor in Traverse City, MI at Mental Wellness Counseling. He is a frequent speaker on topics affecting families and children and is author of the book "Mental Wellness Parenting," available on Amazon.