When my daughters were small, I insisted that we have “quiet time” every day at 3:00. We would lie down on the sofa or on my bed. Sleep was not required. The girls could look at picture books until they were old enough to read on their own. Sometimes I turned on Mr. Rogers at 4:00 because I needed his calming presence, but there was no other TV. It was quiet time.
Many years have passed, but I still value quiet time. Medical and therapeutic professionals of all kinds are approached by clients overwhelmed by to do lists – all of the important must-do’s and must-see’s of contemporary life. It can be difficult to persuade people who feel that there will never be enough hours in the day to take half an hour and do nothing.
But doing nothing actually is a very important doing something for your mind and body. It doesn’t have to be called meditation and it doesn’t require any special techniques. Sitting quietly for twenty minutes and just noticing (without judgement) all of the thoughts that parade through your head can be educational: just notice what happens. Researchers have found that if you combine that with focusing on your heartbeat, the nervous system settles and it is easier to feel happiness, joy and gratitude in the face of what felt overwhelming before.
Most people feel the need to prove their worth through productivity. Many have more work to do than they could ever accomplish. But we are not human ”do-ings” we are “human beings”. It may feel counterintuitive, but taking the time to be, without doing, can make us more productive overall.
Some people find taking quiet time difficult because their mind and body can’t sit still. Start with some gentle stretching, or have your quiet time while walking. No headphones! Just quiet.
So the next time you are feeling like a gerbil on its wheel, don’t just do something, sit there. Give yourself the gift of quiet time.