It has been a slow creep.  I wasn’t aware it was happening until I compared this summer vacation to vacations in the past. I realized that I haven’t been able to sit in the sun and read the paper, complete any arts and crafts projects much less update my address book or finish hooking a rug.  It’s not clear where the time goes, all I know is that when I have a chance to sit down, I reach for my computer.

I am not going to criticize computers or the Internet. I am grateful for all the time they save me, the information that is at my fingertips, and how connected I can be to my friends and family.  However, I am feeling the need for a little more balance.  I think I need a few times a day when I slow down.

There have been many studies done that show that the constant “noise” and distractions we endure all day lead to spikes in blood pressure and an increased level of stress.

Some studies show the benefits of quiet time while other studies show that being surrounded by noise and distraction overload hurts our short-term memory and our ability to stay focused.

Have you ever noticed that if you have a near miss or get lost when you are driving, the first thing you do is turn down the volume on the radio?  That is because the noisier your environment is the harder it is to process and focus.

All of us multi-task and pride ourselves in using our time efficiently.  It is very clear, however, that we need to give our brains some time-outs.

Benefits of slowing down and taking quiet time:

  • Doctors say that slower breathing is one of the simplest ways to improve your health.  Deep breathing lowers stress and blood pressure.  Deep breathing allows oxygen to get down into the smallest airways in our lungs and really oxygenate our organs.
  • Your brain has the ability to process and integrate things it’s learned, done or heard during the day.
  • Slowing down several times a day allows us to appreciate the beauty of our environment more and reconnect with what and who is around you.
  • Daydreaming is important – have you ever been having a quiet moment, maybe walking or driving, and had a solution to a pesky problem suddenly pop into your brain when you weren’t even thinking about the problem?  That, according to a recent article in the New York Times, is the ‘mind-wandering brain mode’
  • – “making connections among things that we didn’t previously see as connected”.
  • Taking breaks is especially important when you are very busy.  It is why people with ‘high-attention’ jobs, like air traffic controllers, are required to take frequent breaks.  Studies have shown that employees working long hours lose efficiency.  Remember studying for exams?  If you pulled an all-nighter you could barely remember a thing you studied the last few hours.
  • Taking a 5-minute break can help your body stay healthy if you take a short walk, stretch or have a drink of water.

How to incorporate quiet breaks into your daily routine:

  • Don’t turn on the radio the minute you get into the car.  Try to keep the quiet for at least 5 minutes.
  • Take a power nap.  Even a 10-minute nap can restore energy and cognitive function.
  • If you work at a computer, set its alarm every hour and take a break.
  • Reward yourself with something you will look forward to during your break – if you work alone, try to be with people, if you work with people, take some alone time.  Do the crossword puzzle if that’s fun or listen to music.
  • Try to walk to meetings outside the office instead of using transportation and use the walk to let your mind wander.
  • Walk to lunch.
  • Download one of these five free apps that remind you to take a break.
  • If you wear an UP band, or another sleep and exercise counting device, you can set many of them to vibrate quietly at a time interval you choose, maybe every 60 minutes, to remind you to take a deep breath and stretch.  See ASE article.
  • Download Headspace – a meditation app with ten 10-minute meditations.  It’s all about how to “sit quietly in your mind”.   It is a free app for both Apple and Android.