Although introverts naturally enjoy spending quiet time alone, it takes practice to experience true silence.
The quality of our quiet time, especially for us introverts, says a lot about the state of our wellbeing. Introverts naturally gravitate toward environments with less external stimulation, so it makes sense that high-quality quiet time directly impacts our wellness. But quiet time is not just about external silence. To fully harness its potential, we must turn with intent toward the quiet space within.
The inner world — that which swirls through the privacy of the mind — impacts our mental and physical wellbeing to a large degree. Constant rumination, unprocessed emotions, and excessive worrying are just some of the inner factors that trigger the stress response: our body’s innate mechanism for handling danger.
As stress hormones like cortisol increase, our heart rate quickens and digestion slows (among other physiological signs that we need to fight or flee the situation), as we move physically and mentally further into defense mode. And while this stress response is appropriate in times of real danger, it harms our energy levels, immunity, cardiovascular health, and mental wellbeing when chronically in gear.
Therefore, our quiet times have a great impact on our wellbeing. When our quiet hours are imbued with a sense of peace and calm, the body is able to rest and reset, lowering the stress response. However, when the inner world is on overdrive — as it often is for introverts — the opposite is likely true.
Introverts Must Practice True Silence
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been comfortable in my own company. Tuning out the outer world has always been a pleasure, yet I find myself still having to navigate the noise stemming from the world within. Though the world around us might quiet down in private hours, this is not synonymous with true silence. Silence rises from within regardless of what moves around us.
This deeper understanding of “true silence” arose for me during two years spent practicing as a Buddhist monk. Prior to this, I had been living a less-than-mindful life and began to recognize how unfulfilled I was by the trajectory I was on. It was small pockets of real silence experienced during mindfulness and meditation practice that led me to want to cultivate true presence and deep silence in a profound way. Over the course of those two years during which I was ordained as a Buddhist monk, I realized that silence is always within, but it requires a willingness to deeply listen — and that takes practice.
It’s natural for introverts to spend quiet time alone; our brains and bodies are wired to need it. However, it still takes practice to deepen our experience of true inner silence as introvert or otherwise, we are all susceptible to a busy mind. When we open ourselves to the silence beneath our thoughts and feelings, we may uncover all of the following:
- Self-limiting thoughts that detract from our sense of self-love
- Habits and barriers that work contrary to love and wellbeing
- Insights into the true nature of reality
- Physical, mental, and emotional rest
By becoming more attuned to the mind and body during quiet moments, we can unleash the benefits that arise from the vast ocean of silence. Here are five tips to do just that.
5 Ways to Deepen Your Quiet Time
1. Watch the rhythm of your breath.
As Thich Nhat Hanh wrote in The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation:
“Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.”
Available to us in all hours, the breath acts as an anchor back into our direct experience — back into the silence that exists beneath the rampant mind. By watching the natural flow of the breath into and out of the body, we quiet the habitual thought patterns within.
Furthermore, breath awareness — and deep belly breathing in particular — help to initiate the body’s relaxation response. As the breath is guided into the belly (or as we open ourselves to its natural deepening), stress hormones come into balance and the body moves toward a state of “rest and digest.” When we practice this throughout the day, we support our immune system, our energy levels, our heart health, and our resiliency to stressors.
2. Become curious about and compassionate toward self-limiting thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors.
To deepen the quality of your quiet time, start paying closer, compassionate attention to the thought loops that rise within. Habitual thoughts and beliefs rooted in judgment, shame, or unworthiness hold us back from self-love, compassion, and vitality. These limiting thoughts and beliefs influence our behavior, which further limits the wellness we will experience.
Tara Brach has a name for this. In her book, Radical Acceptance, she writes:
“When we experience our lives through this lens of personal insufficiency, we are imprisoned in what I call the trance of unworthiness. Trapped in this trance, we are unable to perceive the truth of who we really are.”
Where we approach the inner world with the lens of curiosity, we remain open and non-judgmental toward our experience. We pause the mind that is quick to criticize, finding space to embrace our experience with love, support, and kindness. This helps to stop the racing mind in its tracks, bringing us back into the silence within.
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3. Explore the power and beauty of music.
Though music is not in and of itself silent, it can support our ability to find inner peace and tranquility. Particularly beneficial for those who are new to mindfulness practice, music acts as a supportive backdrop to help still and center the mind.
From nature sounds to soft flute tunes, music has a profound ability to affect our inner state of wellbeing. As we tune in mindfully to calming music, the relaxation response is encouraged, which helps to settle the mind. You can listen to soothing music while in transit (in place of fear-feeding news streams and social media scrolls), after a long day of work, or in those moments before you drift off to sleep.
4. Share silence with others.
As we’ve explored here, silence is not solely about the world around us. More importantly, it is a reflection of the world within. We can be nestled in our apartment just meters above a bustling street and still find a sense of deep silence.
On that note, silence can indeed be shared with others. Whether at your workplace during lunch, with friends or a partner, or in a meditation class, silence when shared with others enhances our interconnectedness. It helps to build our sense of shared humanity and softens any differences, judgments, or barriers to love we might hold.
We can practice silence as a formal meditation — or, we can explore it when in difficult interactions with others. For instance, if we find ourselves in a heated discussion with a partner, can we both take a few moments of silence to reconnect with what’s moving in the heart? Quiet moments do not have to be reserved for formal practice. In fact, when we practice them in the midst of life’s dynamic interactions, we expand the impact they have. We fuel not only our own sense of love and wellbeing but also that within and in relation to others.
5. Spend time immersed in nature.
The natural world is a refuge that helps us to reconnect with the silence within. In modern day society, many of us feel disconnected from nature due to more paved lots than forests and greenery. However, when we make it a priority to reconnect with nature, the soul immediately begins to settle.
I have experienced this numerous times upon arriving at my family’s cabin. As I step out of the car, my shoulders drop, my belly softens, and the thought flows through me: “I can breathe again.” In these moments, I wonder why I waited so long before returning to the natural world as a deep sense of peace, interconnectedness, and silence ring through me reminding me “I am home.”
With that said, silence is not something we need to travel to. It is not something we need to achieve, attain, or hold onto. True silence is always within us, requiring only that we open ourselves to it. Until our inner silence rings through with ease, we can practice any of these techniques to harness its presence and power. As we do so, our loving sense of self flourishes and our wellbeing rises to meet it.
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