Thursday, October 11, 2012

In The Pursuit of Happiness: On the joys of quiet

That's the photo that hangs in my mom's bathroom, just above a framed cover of the UP DVD. She snapped the sign a few years ago while strolling along a nature trail in the South, and since, it's quickly become her mantra. Well, it's sort of become our family's mantra. In fact, I've even found my eyes drifting to those two simple words every night as I brush my teeth.

Quiet. Please.

The truth is, though, that mere mention of the word quiet can make people shudder. Quiet gets a bad rap. It's awkward. It's uncomfortable. It's deafeningly loud in its silence. Quiet is bad -- very bad. Quiet should be avoided at all costs. I've always been a bit unsure about all of that.

And then I read a thought-provoking piece The New York Times ran last year on the joys of quiet, and I was sold.

"We barely have enough time to see how little time we have (most Web pages, researchers find, are visited for 10 seconds or less)," writes author Pico Iyer. "The urgency of slowing down — to find the time and space to think — is nothing new, of course, and wiser souls have always reminded us that the more attention we pay to the moment, the less time and energy we have to place it in some larger context."
Indeed, sometimes a little quiet can go a long way. Since my father died, I relish those quiet moments. Not because I'm lonely or depressed, but because I've learned that instead of being uncomfortable, just sitting in the quiet can be the most comfortable thing in the whole world. Those quiet moments can be utterly healing. Still not convinced? Here are a few more ways to enjoy those quiet moments...

*Enjoy a bubble bath and a good book (this book is on my reading list).
*Curl up in front of the fire with some hot chocolate.
*Grab your camera and snap some photos of the changing autumn leaves.
*Choose a day during the week and turn off the computer -- Iyer calls this an Internet sabbath. I do this on the weekend, usually on Saturday and try not to work on my blog.
*Take 15 minutes to journal your thoughts.

Research has even shown that after spending time in quiet rural settings, subjects "exhibit greater attentiveness, stronger memory and generally improved cognition. Their brains become both calmer and sharper.”

And though perhaps a bit extreme,Iyer's tactics have worked for him. "I've yet to use a cellphone and I’ve never Tweeted or entered Facebook. I try not to go online till my day’s writing is finished, and I moved from Manhattan to rural Japan in part so I could more easily survive for long stretches entirely on foot, and every trip to the movies would be an event."
Walking to the movies as an event? That sounds pretty good to me.

Well, friends, what do you think? Do you love those quiet moments? How have you found more quiet time in your life? Do you wish you had more? What tips and tricks can you share? xoxo

P.S. On the business of being busy.

[Photos via Le Love]


  1. Since I am hearing impaired, I can grab a quiet moment anytime I want, anywhere I want just by taking my hearing aids out! And I do!! Seriously, it seems I am always surrounded by my husband and/or kids and finding a quiet space in my home is tough. But I do. And sometimes reading or a good movie can transport me to another place and I don't even notice the distraction around me.

    I went back to look at your last post which I missed because I live in Chicago. I always like to hear someone's take on it. People can be very negative, they have misconceptions that Chicago is a more dangerous place than other cities. I'm happy that you shared your memories and some gorgeous pictures! Let me know the next time to visit! :)


  2. I like the way your mom thinks. Some people need social interaction to thrive, I need quiet. I totally relate to this entry and I'm looking forward to reading more of the NY Times article. :)

  3. Personally, I love quiet time. I find that too much talking and noise can just be overwhelming. Blame it on the introvert in me...but I definitely don't mind days of silence. It's so peaceful, and serene. Plus, it makes it easier to accomplish tasks! :)

  4. Sometimes silence is a must. Its a much needed break from all the drama and stress. Its the time to sort your thoughts out.
    Eagan Fitness Center


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