As a Life Coach who specializes in working with people that desire to grow in the skills associated with Life Model Works, I have noticed a very common thread amongst my clients. I see the same missing life skill in many of them that I also see missing in my friends and extended family. It seems that the majority of people I come in contact with all struggle with quieting.
I’ve discovered that without explanation, most don’t really get why it’s even important. Or, at least when asked to try it, they scoff at the idea after a mere 30 seconds.
But the truth is, our bodies and our brains NEED periods of quiet to work properly.
In fact, the lack of this ability is the strongest predictor of developing a mental illness. Without the life skill of quieting, our chances of suffering from depression, anxiety and even more debilitating mental illnesses go up. Drastically!
When you look at the rushed, hurried pace our culture is setting, it’s not hard to realize that quieting has fallen low on the priority of most. At least the kind of quieting that is actually good for us!
(*as much as I enjoy watching tv to “unwind” it’s not really the quieting that my brain really needs! Watching tv still stimulates the brain and while it may help to distract me from my own thoughts, it’s still involved in the ups and downs of the characters on the show!)
So, what do I mean by quieting?
Quieting is first learned as something that is experienced together with someone. When a mother holds her infant and gently rocks or hums a melody that is soft and soothing, the infant learns to quiet. The infant’s heart rate decreases and breathing rate slows and relaxation spreads between both mother and child.
This is the kind of quieting we need no matter what age we are!
But somewhere along the way, most of us were eventually put in a room and told to “be quiet” as if it were a command or a punishment – because “big kids” can “self soothe”.
We believed that “quieting” was now for “babies” and found other things to distract us in such a way that it looked as if we had “soothed ourselves”.
Or, maybe we were given a tv in our room to “keep us quiet”.
At the same time, many of us have been given the most praise and reward for the times that we were “doing” instead of for relaxing. Maybe we were even verbally punished for “relaxing”.
I really think this life skill has been confused and twisted in so many ways that it’s just as difficult to unwind the concept as it is to actually do it.
So, what exactly is quieting as a life skill for adults?
Do you remember what it felt like to fall in love for the 1st time? Do you remember just wanting to lay on a blanket looking up at the stars and not even needing to talk? Do you remember how even the thought of a moment like that would cause you to take in a deep breath, sit back a little deeper in your chair and smile?
Now think about how that felt in your body. Think about your heart rate- isn’t it slowing down? Is your breathing rate slowing down? Are your shoulders, back and face feeling more relaxed?
This is quieting.
But it doesn’t require a sky full of stars.
Quieting is what happens when we allow our thoughts to slow down and savor a peaceful moment. Scientists often refer to it as mindfulness. Mindfulness helps us to become more aware of where we are in this exact moment in such a way that the past and the future aren’t screaming at us.
Quieting takes place in the present.
Quieting is needed after the experience of both positive and negative emotions. I would imagine that the US Women’s Gymnastics team needed those deep breaths and hugs after winning Gold just as much as the team that was feeling despair over losing.
Quieting is best learned together, but can also be practiced alone after you’ve begun to learn it.
I love how our brain learns best when it has a live model to connect to.
For someone who doesn’t really have the life skill of quieting, the attempt all alone would feel nothing short of impossible. Find someone else to practice with. Your spouse, your best friend, your child, your counselor or even your life coach. It’s okay if it feels “weird”! It’s okay if it’s difficult! Quieting is the opposite of what your brain has learned to do so far.
I have even managed to practice quieting with my dog!
And if what you learned was wrong, trust me, it’s time for a corrective experience. Let yourself settle in the moment instead of feeling like you need to talk. Let yourself settle in the moment instead of looking to distract yourself on your phone. The more you practice it, the less weird it will feel!
And to those of you who do have the life skill of quieting, keep it up! Don’t neglect it as a practice and consider offering to help a friend or loved one with it.
*For more information on Life and Recovery Coaching, check out my website at www.theopenbench.com. My fall “online groups” are starting soon!