Why are we so stressed out?
As a kid, I was quite the creative weirdo.
I wrote short stories (about fairies), performed concerts for my family (to the musical stylings of Shania Twain + Aqua), and created backstories and profiles for all my toys–most notably some water balloons with drawn on smiley faces that lived in a shoebox under my bed (I had real toys, I promise).
I acted in school plays, I drew, and I wrote: everything from songs to poetry to stories. In the eighth grade I carried around a notebook in which I authored my first book: an 88-page story about a girl being haunted by the ex-girlfriend ghost of her boyfriend–and I made everyone read it. Like I said, I was weird (and my story was not good).
And for years, my dream was to be an author. It’s why I majored in English, and took many a creative writing class. But somewhere along the way, as I started to transition into adulthood, I kind of stopped writing. No more writing plot ideas on the backs of receipt paper at work. No more making up songs in the shower. No more drawing. No more daydreaming.
Worse, my anxiety also deepened, and I felt like my thoughts were just always racing, battling, swirling around in my head. My thoughts felt like television static, and it made it hard to concentrate and be calm, let alone be creative. For the longest time, I had no idea why I felt like this–I thought maybe this is just what the adult brain feels like. The adult brain just feels like static noise.
But, after some reflection, I realized it was something else: I had lost The Quiet in my life.
Wait, what’s The Quiet?
Did I make it sound super ominous by capitalizing it? Good. It’s not though. Ominous, I mean. This is nothing fancy, or mysterious or woo-woo. This is so simple, and yet so ground breaking. The Quiet, is literally just those times in your life when there is no noise: no TV on, no music, no to-do list. It’s just you and your thoughts.
When was the last time you did that? Think of the last time you were bored, and you let yourself be bored–instead of checking social media? Instead of putting on Netflix. When is the last time you let your mind wander?
What if–crazy theory alert–your mind races at night, because you didn’t let it wander through the day?
What if that’s why meditation is so helpful? Because our brain needs The Quiet (I’m going to keep capitalizing it now. It’s like a thing). I mean think of your best ideas: when do they come to you? I bet some of the most out of the box, most creative thoughts you’ve had, were during those times when you were experiencing boredom–like going for a long walk or drive, or at work on a slow day. Your mind likes to get up to sh*t, and I think we don’t honour that.
It turns out, there’s actual science to back this stuff up:
- Noise pollution can raise blood pressure, disrupt sleep patterns and even increase risks of heart attacks by raising cortisol levels.
- A study in 2006 found that silence was found to be more relaxing than ‘relaxing music‘–blood pressure reduced and heart rate slowed when the music was paused.
- Psychologist Johnathan Smallwood found that people who let their minds wander were better at creative problem solving.
- A 2013 study on mice found that two hours of silence prompted the growth of new brain cells.
- Silence may even be therapeutic for helping with Alzheimer’s and depression
We are so afraid of missing out, that we are always plugged in. We are always on. And it stresses us out.
How Finding Quiet In My Life Increased My Creativity
I wondered why I stopped singing in the shower: it turns out, I always had a podcast on. Every spare moment of my life, I was listening to music, or a podcast, or a show or scrolling through Pinterest. In fact, if left with my own thoughts for more then a few minutes, I wanted to pull my hair out, just to have something to do. No wonder I couldn’t create: I spent all of my time consuming.
So, I started bringing The Quiet back into my life. I started seeking out those moments of stillness. And you know what? My thoughts calmed down. And I started to get ideas again. A lot of the things I was stressing about kind of fell away, because I was able to work them out, or even just finish the thought.
With that, I have below 5 times in your life when you can just be surrounded by the wonderfulness that is you and your thoughts. Okay, maybe it sounds boring, but I bet it also sounds relaxing, and almost necessary. Don’t you crave quiet in your life?
So try these out, and if they don’t work–if you don’t feel less stressed, and if you don’t feel more creative–then by all means, go back to your podcasts. But I bet, I seriously bet, you will notice a difference, and you will feel calmer, and more zen-like.
5 times a day you can lower your stress + boost your creativity
1. In the shower.
Isn’t the shower just the best spot for ideas? Isn’t this where you think up new stories, places you want to travel or even what you’re going to cook for dinner? For me, it’s also where I get in a healthy dose of singing Disney tunes. Let your mind wander and find a happy place–let yourself day dream.
2. While you do housework.
Because I hate housework (and expect my pets to vacuum up their own fur, which they don’t), I like to reward myself by binge watching my favourite shows while I clean. The problem is that I actually get stressed out doing this: I leave to go into the kitchen, and hear an important conversation taking place between two characters just out of earshot, my elbows deep in soapy dishwater, and I feel myself get frustrated and overwhelmed–I don’t want to miss what’s happening! But when I do the dishes sans noise, or perhaps some lovely instrumental music (usually courtesy of Zelda soundtracks), instead I get to let my brain chill out.
3. On the commute.
Okay, I get that commuting is prime time for podcasts, and I’m not saying to scrap it and never listen to a podcast again. But, if you’ve ever felt yourself kind of irritated with a podcast, and you feel a little tense, and maybe you can’t pick one podcast to listen to (because the intro is taking too long and you only have 30 minutes to get into it), and you feel a little overwhelmed, turn it off. Just for that ride, let your mind be still, because you probably don’t actually want to be listening to that podcast at all.
4. When you eat.
It’s so tempting to watch tv when you eat–I get it. But eating in quiet, or with family and friends, allows you to connect to you food, and engage in what’s happening around you. Being present allows you to taste your food, and slow down. This not only benefits your mind, it benefits your digestion: you’re more likely to properly chew your food, and stop eating when you’re full.
5. Before and after sleep.
When I wake up in the morning (which is now in the dark, thanks to Daylight Savings) I love how calm I feel. But on mornings where I start my day scrolling my social media, or checking my emails, it’s like all of yesterday’s to-do list comes rushing back, and I feel myself feel stressed, and anxious, and irritated. On mornings where I drink my coffee and read, or do some work (I’m not saying just sit there and do nothing, although you certainly can!) I feel calm, and I can start thinking about my day from a place of focus, not overwhelm.
The same is true at night. Your work will always be there, your dishes will (in my case) always be there. So make it a goal to ‘turn off’ and do something quiet and relaxing before you go to bed, and allow yourself that self-care. This could be reading a book, meditation, chatting with your loved ones–whatever makes you feel centred. I like to use the evening to get in my creative zone and write, either for the blog, my journal or just creative writing.
So there you have it, 5 times in your day to find The Quiet, and consequently, lower your stress and boost your creativity. What do you think: is quiet and stillness lacking in your life? Do you crave it?
If this was helpful, let me know in the comments or share this post with your friends and famjam!