In our technology saturated world, with more devices than ever, entrepreneurs are finding it impossible to get unplugged. They say Smartphone users check their device every 6.5 minutes, which works out to around 150 times a day. For all the benefits of constant connectivity, we’ve also created a monster, with an epidemic of addictions to phones, social media and Internet.
However, a rise in workplace meditation practices has touched on the importance of silence and unplugging for a few moments each day. Here are 10 important reasons to make time for silence and solitude:
1. Bypassing burnout.
Our culture defines self-worth by productivity. It’s a rat race, after all, and the only way to win is by skipping lunch and going full steam ahead.
Solitude allows for a break from the tyrant of productivity. Paradoxically, making time for nothing will make you more efficient. Promega is a company that created "third spaces" where employees are able to take solitude breaks and meditate in natural light.
The health benefits resulted in improved productivity levels for the company. It will do the same for us.
2. Heightened sensitivity.
For many, 10 days of silence would seem as hard as walking on water but Vipassana silent retreats are exactly that. Participants are instructed to refrain from speaking, reading, writing or eye contact for 10 days.
With all the talking entrepreneurs have to do, silence is a reprieve that will heighten your listening skills.
3. Dissolving tomorrow's troubles.
Alan Watts believes our frustration and anxiety is rooted in our disconnection from the present by future rumination that is an illusion. Silence brings our awareness back to the present, where actual happiness is experienced.
Although hypotheticals, abstractions and predictions are necessary for the entrepreneur, they can create unnecessary anxiety. Silence and solitude pulls us out of speculation and immerses us back in the present.
4. Improves memory.
Combining solitude with a walk in nature causes brain growth in the hippocampus region, resulting in better memory.
Evolutionists explain that being in nature sparks our spatial memory as it did when our ancestors went hunting. Remembering where to find food and avoid predators were was essential for survival. Taking a walk alone gives the brain uninterrupted focus and helps with memory consolidation.
5. Strengthens intention and action.
Psychologist Kelly McGonigal says during silence the critical mind disengaged we are able to cultivate an intention that motivates us to take action.
In this state of mental reflection, McGonigal says to ask yourself three questions:
• “If anything were possible, what would I welcome or create in my life?”
• “When I'm feeling most courageous and inspired, what do I want to offer the world?”
• “When I'm honest about how I suffer, what do I want to make peace with?”
Removing that critical mind allows the imagination and positive emotions to build a subconscious intention and add fuel to our goals.
McGonigal explains, "When you approach the practice of figuring this stuff out in that way, you start to get images and memories and ideas that are different than if you tried to answer those questions intellectually."
6. Increases self-awareness.
The visceral reactions often come with regret. A single bad decision can ruin your business. It happens when we're governed by actions absent of reasoning.
In silence, we make room for the self-awareness to be in control of our actions, rather than under their control. The break from external voices puts us in tune to our inner voices, and it's those inner voices that drive our actions. Awareness from internal thoughts leads to external control.
Solitude allows you to be an observer of your thoughts. The human will is strengthened whenever we choose not to respond to every actionable thought.
Related: Meditation Isn't Just For Hippies: Here is How it Can Help Entrepreneurs
7. Grow your brain.
The brain is the most complex and powerful organ but, like muscles, benefits from rest. UCLA research showed that regular times set aside to disengage, sit in silence and mentally rest, improves the the "folding" of the cortex and boosts our ability to process information.
Carving out as little as 10 minutes to sit silently in your car or office and visualizing peaceful scenery (rainforest, snow-falling, beach) will thicken grey matter in your brain.
8. "A-Ha" moments.
The creative process includes a crucial stage called incubation, where all the ideas you’ve been exposed to meet, mingle, marinate -- then produces a eureka or "A-ha" moment.
The secret to incubation? Nothing. Literally; disengage from the work at hand, and take a rest. It's also the elixir for mental blocks.
What's typically seen as useless daydreaming is now being seen as an essential experience. Professor Jonathan Schooler from UC Santa Barbara says, "Daydreaming and boredom seem to be a source for incubation and creative discovery in the brain.”
9. Mastering discomfort.
Just when you've found a quiet place to sit alone and reflect, an itch will beckon to be scratched. But many meditation teachers will encourage you to refrain, and breath into the experience until it passes.
When you are in solitude, bring your mind back from distracting thoughts and to your breathing. These practices will build greater willpower and self-discipline, which are essential in the workplace.
10. Emotional cleansing.
Our fight/flight mechanism is triggered not only from physical difficulties, but also emotional difficulties. The brain releases cortisol, which can lead to stress. Taking time to process your emotions, particularly any negatives, is essential for preventing stress and anxiety. But in the daily grind, emotions get ignored and swept under covers. And it’s not long before the volcano erupts.
Sitting in solitude gives you an opportunity to calm any emotional storms. You’re able to process and consider what triggered the negative emotion, and readjust where necessary. The key is to do so as an observer. Step outside of yourself as if reporting for a newspaper. It's a technique used by psychotherapists to detach a person from their emotions, and allows a more objective and rational response.
Unplugging and disconnecting seems counterintuitive for the hustling entrepreneur, but intentionally making time for silence and solitude will be the paradox that fuels your success.