Apologies if you're a parent looking to shush an unruly child; this isn't the post for you! Instead, I'm looking at quietening your mind in a world full of loud and colourful distractions. Read on to learn how to be quiet.
You already know that I'm an introvert, so being quiet is less of a chore for me and more a way of life. It doesn't take much for me to spend a whole day of my holidays not talking, or only interacting with people briefly (even introverts need coffee!). But physically not talking doesn't really translate into my mind being quieter, and that can be a constant source of irritation and distraction.
Within minutes of getting out of bed on a morning my senses are assaulted by television, social media, music, books, and pretty much any other medium you care to consider. This isn't the healthiest thing for me, as I can flit between Facebook and Twitter at the speed of light, consuming more information than I know what to do with. And then it's on to work, to do more of the same. And then at home on an evening, where I can watch a film and check my phone at the same time (or write a blog post!). It's helpful, sometimes, but it's also quite distracting, and it can mean that I struggle to focus on one thing at once - my mind is flighty, always running on to the next thing even as I try to make it settle down. Something has to give eventually.
Our brains are incredible, meaning-making, fast-paced processing machines, but concentration is something you have to practice to get better at. I've noticed mine shrinking slightly over the years, as my information started to come to me in 140-character bites. That's not a dig at social media, it's just something I've noticed my brain doing. TL;DR (Too Long, Didn't Read) exists for a reason! However, when I considered replying to a work email with that phrase a few weeks ago, I knew it was time to change!
Something that is important to understand when you take up any kind of meditation practice (be it mindfulness, more formal guided meditation, or just diaphragmatic breathing), is that your mind is not designed to be empty. Go back and read that sentence again if it surprises you! So often we think that we're doing mindfulness or meditation "wrong" because we can't achieve some sort of "blank mind" state - this in itself is wrong, and is likely to completely put you off meditation if you believe it. And rightly so!
As we've previously said, your brain is incredible and skilled at processing. Even if you don't want to be having thoughts at that particular moment, your brain doesn't care - it will still generate them. That has amazing up-sides (multitasking, yay!) and also incredible down-sides (anxiety can cause even benign thoughts to spiral). Meditation should be less about having a completely empty mind, and more about teaching your mind to focus on one thing at once. Here are some tips for quietening your mind a little bit:
As we're confronted with so many different things, which can focus our attention on amazing or terrible things, a little bit of quiet can't be a bad thing. Tell me how you get yours in the comments.
Dr Sarah Blackshaw: Clinical Psychologist, blogger, tea drinker, interested in dinosaurs and shiny objects