I much too often underestimate the power of silence. We live in a world where we’re under constant attack from breaking news, social network notifications, text messages, and emails. In fact, we can be alone all day without realizing that no one has called us or knocked at our door, as long as we can communicate through social networks.
This is by no means intended as a rant against such media. After all, I’m writing this post in wordpress and I will shamelessly promote it via twitter and facebook in a couple of minutes. My point is that we should be aware of the extent to which we use these services, and strive to limit the influence they may have on our everyday lives. Next time you find yourself reaching for your phone to check for notifications, try and stop yourself and ask “Do I really need to check this now? Didn’t I check 5 minutes ago? Am I really waiting for anything urgent?” In many situations I have found that I check my phone repeatedly out of sheer boredom and bad habit, rather than by actively choosing to do so. This has caused me to ask myself: Am I in control of my electronic devices or are they in control of me? Well, recently I’ve been unsure, which is why I’m writing this post.
You might be thinking “surely, checking your phone can’t be all that harmful!” Think again, ladies and gentlemen. By having access to all emails, all social networks, and all your contacts (who may live in different time zones) through your phone, your brain is constantly receiving stressors that keep you on high alert. The light, the sounds, the pressure of feeling the obligation to reply instantly is not healthy for us in the long run.
I’ve dealt with severe health-damaging stress a few years back, and I therefore know my triggers and my signals. Nonetheless, I’ve felt recently that I’ve been ignoring my most basic need. The need for silence. It’s shocking, really, that with all that I’ve learned, the lessons I tend to forget the easiest, are those that life has taught me about myself. A very wise doctor once told me: “If you allow yourself to get constantly distracted by minor things, your brain will eventually suffer from information overload. This will render you constantly alert and unable to distinguish between important and unimportant. Moreover, you’ll lose your sense of proportion, being much more prone to overreacting and nurturing catastrophic thinking patterns. This is when you’ll find yourself on the path to stress, depression, and anxiety.” He explained that he had named this diagnosis “collapse of the information reduction system”, and when he told me this it all seemed so obvious. Back then, I was under so much continued academic, emotional, and psychological pressure that I had days where I dreaded going grocery shopping out of fear that I’d collapse in the middle of aisle 4.
I’m sharing this post with you to help you learn from my mistakes and to remind myself of what I know, but all too often tend to forget. I’m now a mere four weeks away from moving to Seoul, where I’ll start a new life, in a new apartment, at a new workplace, with new people around me. Exciting, sure! But also slightly scary, and let’s not forget that moving is one of the highest rated stress triggers. Then, I wonder, how do they rate moving to the other side of the planet? Since I’ve made the choice to go, and I’m so excited that I have, I owe it to myself (past, present, and future Sofie) to go there with a strong and balanced mind. To me that means switching from screen to paper, going for long walks/runs, meditating in silence, and reading, reading, reading, reading. The beautiful thing about reading is that you don’t have to think about anything. Just read, and let the book do the thinking for you. And what’s even better, after 30 minutes of reading you’ll have the instant feeling of progress and satisfaction just by moving your bookmark to a new page. That beats 30 minutes mindless staring at your phone anyday. You’ll remember what you read in your book, but you likely won’t remember the comments, the likes, the tags, or the texts even five minutes after you’ve read them.
I’d like to invite all of you to take a break to reflect, meditate, read, or walk… In silence.