Dear Dr. Allen:
Can you hear the sounds of silence?
Many of us avoid being alone because we can’t tolerate the emotions, thoughts or memories that emerge. So we stay super busy. We may also use alcohol, marijuana, nicotine and other drugs to alter our experience, and as a way to run from ourselves.
People use the term multitasking to describe focusing on work while at the same time watching a video, or listening to music. Some believe the human brain has developed the capacity to do multiple activities at the same time. However, brain researchers have concluded that the human brain has not developed this new capacity. In fact, brain researchers have concluded that our minds have become overloaded.
I encourage you to consider simplifying your mindset. Simplifying your schedule of activities can bring some peace into your being. Our minds are like a radio with an unlimited number of stations. Sometimes it seems there are radio waves flowing through us unhindered. With mental practice, we can learn to filter the thoughts in our mind, choosing which radio stations to listen to.
A first step is to become comfortable in our own skin. Can you go for a walk, or workout without earbuds? Can you be in your living space without the TV, internet or other audio happening? Being alone may cause anxiety. However, slowly increasing the minutes that we can be comfortable alone, without distractions, will allow anxiety to be replaced by tranquility.
The goal is to quiet the outside noise, and then quiet the insides of us. Consider beginning each day with a “quiet time.” Maybe reading, journaling, meditating, praying, or listening to peaceful music.
We have enough going on in our own head without focusing on another device or type of mental stimulation. How can we even hear our own thoughts or listen to our heart if we are constantly bombarded with mental and visual stimulation?
Some people feel lonely, even in a crowd. Our goal is to be okay with being alone.
Young people especially need to learn the skills to be comfortable with being alone with their own thoughts. It is not something that is happening with teens, who have grown up with phones, computers, games, streaming, videos, social media and other technological innovations. But, they will need to be okay being alone as they move out of the nest.
An added benefit to simplifying our lives is that our sleep will be a restful, recharging experience, with dreams that inspire us.
Dr. Greg Allen is a licensed therapist practicing in Palos Verdes Estates. (drgregallen.com). He is also the founder and director of Freedom4U, a non-profit that seeks to guide youths toward their life purposes, thereby reducing risky lifestyles (FreedomCommunity.com). His new non-profit Hearts Respond, focuses on supporting LA Harbor families in social-emotional and creative areas (HeartsRespond.com). PEN
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