Welcome to “How You Living?” a transformative podcast featuring best-selling author, inspirational speaker and minister, Dr. Rick Rigsby—and, now, Dr. Rick.
Dr. Rigsby: Hello, friends. Thank you so much for joining me today. I want to talk to you about a subject that, up until recently, I knew little about and actually had very little interest in, and that topic is silence.
I'm a Type A personality, baby. I'm the life of the party, at least in my own mind. I love noise. I thrive on noise. But I've been noticing some changes lately. But let me just give you a little bit of background. I grew up in a loud family, right? I loved rhythm and blues music. I loved all kinds of music in the ’70s, in college from the Doobie Brothers to Earth, Wind & Fire. Come on, somebody. [01:04.0]
I mean, in the ’80s, we were loud. In the ’90s, not only were we loud as human beings, but our devices got even louder and I seemed to just love the buzz, loved the activity, and anything related to silence always communicated to me some form of punishment. I was either in timeout or I would have to stay after school in elementary school for talking too much in class. I always felt that when I was silent, I was missing out on something.
I even remember, when our four grown sons were toddlers, part of their daily routine included quiet time. Mom would have them set in her lap as she rocked them and read to them, and sometimes she would sing to them and, on occasion, they would even fall asleep. Let me tell you something. Back then, I wanted no part of it today. I cannot tell you how good that sounds. [02:06.6]
Our noisy and chaotic world. Isn't it interesting that even us Type As tend to be craving silence? Friends, we're anxious. We're uncertain. We're certainly overwhelmed. We're overstressed. There's this general feeling of uneasiness that's in the air. Depression seems to be common. Suicides are on the rise.
Just recently in my suburb north of Dallas, there were two murders involving children who killed other family members. I watched in horror a recap of the events and I listened to the homicide investigator who said on the news, quote, “Each murder has its own set of circumstances, but I can tell you,” he said, “some of the similarities are helplessness and hopelessness.” That seems to be the calling card of this present age as mental health has become a major issue in our time. [03:09.8]
At a recent conference on mental health in the church, Dr. Tim Clinton, who's a dear friend and also president of the American Association of Christian Counselors, opened the event with these words, quote, Dr. Clinton said, “We're not in a mental health crisis. We're in a mental health disaster. Our well-being is under attack and the signs point to an opportunity for people like me to learn more about the benefits of silence.”
I think it's because I'm a loud Type A personality who loves noise and activity that silence just doesn't come naturally to me, but I'm experiencing turmoil just like many of you, and so recently I began a journey to discover the benefits of silence. To say that I've been sitting simply amazed would be a huge understatement. [04:06.0]
In an article in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, researcher John Moran noted that, during silence, the brain is freed to slip into a default resting mode. Listen to what Moran said. This resting mode is observed most closely during psychological tasks that include reflecting on one's personalities and characteristics, also known as self-reflection. When the brain is at rest, it integrates internal and external information into a conscious workplace. In other words, skills that are critical to leadership are supported by silence, skills such as self-awareness and reflection, tapping into intuition and thinking creatively, skills that are related to growing your acumen for leadership are rooted in silence. [05:05.0]
I then came across an interesting organization called the Holdsworth Center and the Holdsworth Center works with school leaders. Listen to this leadership philosophy. “We don't believe leadership is about titles, but about influence.” They had me right there. I'm a disciple of John Maxwell's leadership philosophy. John Maxwell, the great motivator, said on one occasion, “Leadership is influence—nothing more, nothing less.” Your ability to influence people within the sphere of your periphery determines your impact.
The Center had me with its leadership philosophy from the beginning. Listen to what the webpage for the Holdsworth Center goes on to say. “True leaders are able to mobilize others to solve problems and drive positive change. But that change must start from within.” [06:00.5]
The center has a two-year program for leaders, rooted in three things. Number one, a deep connection to purpose. Number two, and ability to manage physical, mental, and emotional resources. Number three, the willingness and ability to identify areas for growth and actively improve. In other words, friends, it's well within our reach to improve our lives with silence.
Then I came across a newsletter, a 2020 newsletter published by Medical News Today. The newsletter was titled “Decreasing Unwanted Sound” and basically the thesis is, when we decrease unwanted sound, our overall health increases. The newsletter stated that unwanted sounds can have a range of mental health effects. The brain is always monitoring sounds for signs of danger, even during sleep, and as a result, frequent or loud noise can trigger anxiety or even stress. [07:06.5]
With continued exposure to noise pollution, a person's sensitivity to stress increases. People living with noise pollution may feel irritable, on edge, frustrated, or angry. Sound familiar? The article goes on to state that if a person feels they cannot control the amount of noise in their environment, its impact on their mental health intensifies.
Environmental noise that affects sleep impacts our well-being. We'll experience difficulty falling asleep. We’ll experience an inability to stay asleep or perhaps even, worst of all, we'll wake up way too early. Sounds can also reduce the depth and the quality of sleep, altering the amount of rapid eye movement during sleep, which can impact the person's mood and even ability to concentrate. [08:00.8]
Physical impacts of noise. Pollution can range from hearing distortions and hearing a persistent high-pitched ringing throughout the day. Wow. Think about this. According to experts, short-term exposure to noise pollution can temporarily raise blood pressure and increase blood viscosity. There is also an association between long-term exposure to noise and higher rates of cardiovascular disease.
In fact, medical experts say such conditions may result from the impact of noise pollution on stress hormone levels and the nervous system and, over time, this stress may contribute to the development of all diseases. Unwanted sound, the lack of silence, it affects the brain, our emotions, our sense of well-being, our sleep cycle, our hearing, our focus and concentration. It has physical effects on our blood pressure, our heart functions. [09:09.6]
In essence, unwanted sound has the potential to impact every facet of life. Do I have your attention now?
I started looking at a few of the benefits of silence and I was just blown away. According to medical experts with the Cleveland clinic, silence offers opportunities for self-reflection, for daydreaming. These activities stimulate the brain. Such activities encourage us to decrease inner noise that’s heightening our awareness of what matters most.
At this point in my journey, I began to see a trend. There's a passage in the Bible that I've memorized, but I've rarely utilized. Psalm 46. The Psalmist says. “Be still, and know that I am God.” I know being still is important, but I did not know that it was vital. [10:05.0]
There's another passage later in the Psalms, where King David, during a very difficult time in his life, a period of time where a lot of anxiety was produced, he commands his heart to be silent. Psalm 62 records David saying, “My soul waits in silence for God.” I know being silent is important, but I didn't know being silent was critical.
For optimal mental health and physical health, I am discovering the power of silence, from lowering the blood pressure to decreasing my heart rate to reducing muscle tension in my neck and shoulders, to increasing focus and cognition to thinking more clearly to solving problems, to identifying with and becoming more aware of my breathing, to learning how to regain my balance in perspective, to increasing my self-awareness, to being more mindful and compassionate. [11:08.6]
There's nothing that silence doesn't touch. It improves our leadership abilities. Friends, it improves our overall life. I read an article that stated peace and quiet loosens the roots of anger, greed, and fear. Let me say that again. Peace and quiet loosens the roots of anger, greed, and fear. I'm convinced. Now that I've done some reading. Step 2 is application, building quiet time in my day and making a daily choice to make quiet a top priority.
I came across a business called WhisperRoom, Inc. They manufacture isolation enclosures used by organizations from recording studios to medical labs. They claim to be the global leader in the sound-isolation technology business. [12:09.5]
What I found interesting was that the company published on its webpage the benefits of silence and why we need less noise. Just listen to a couple of these. For example, silence helps you concentrate, that focus is currently under assault and our brains are under siege with bytes of information coming at us at a rapid speed. Silence lowers the decibels.
Silence encourages concentration. Second, silence encourages creativity. Listen to this. Visionary scientists like Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton worked almost exclusively alone for the majority of their lives. One psychologist argues that the best creative work that a human being can do is often completed in solitude. Wow. [13:00.0]
Silence promotes awareness. Taking time to self-reflect will help us figure out if our life is working the way we want it to and perhaps ways that we can make improvements. Silence provides us with a sense of calm. The American Institute of Stress reports around 77% of the people in America show some physical signs of stress in everyday life. Wow. Silence gives us the opportunity to relax and reduce those stress levels.
Listen to this one. Silence promotes learning. Noise—I did not know this, friends—has been linked to a lower level of learning. The more noise a child is exposed to, the worst they perform at school and the harder they find concentration levels. My goodness. Silence increases productivity. Research published in Inc. Magazine suggests that doing nothing and remaining silent is reported to increase the production of new brain cells. [14:05.7]
Finally, silence gives us more patience. Learning to enjoy silence cultivates calmness and peacefulness. When regularly practiced, our tolerance levels for becoming impatient will likely grow, too. When we learn to savor silent moments, we'll have more patience in daily hassles like traffic jams and long lines at the grocery store.
Friends, despite my Type A personality, despite the fact that I never meet a stranger, despite the fact that I love a party morning, noon, and night, I've been noticing something about me over the past few years. I am growing increasingly intolerant of noise. Someone recently told me that's part of getting old, but I think it's deeper than that. I've noticed that I'm really learning to enjoy activities that offer a component of silence, like watching birds in my backyard, come on, somebody, like sitting peacefully by a body of water or in the mountains, like going for a walk, like playing golf all by myself. [15:19.4]
I came across this guy named Nick Seaver. I was blown away by his TED Talk. Apparently, Nick and his wife spent 18 months in solitude. Check out the TED Talk for yourself, Nick Seaver, common spelling. The talk is titled “The Gift of Silence”, and, actually, what Nick and his wife did became part of the first major long-term study on silence and meditation, and the results verified everything we've been told for decades that solitude and meditation improves our focus, our memory, our health, our happiness, our emotional resilience, our emotional intelligence. It reduces ADHD. It reduces depression and anxiety, and it improves our kindness and compassion. [16:10.2]
We're now meditating and being silent in all walks of life, friends. Athletes are learning to be silent. Schools are including meditation. We're even finding periods of solitude and meditation in prisons and in the military to combat stress in the field, to branches of service to combat post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD. Companies are even training employees on the benefits of silence and meditation.
I'm not talking about 18 months of solitude. That's not my cup of tea. However, this is what I have learned. My mind and body need silence, about 10 to 15 minutes of complete total silence every single day. Now, that thought used to make me uncomfortable. [17:06.3]
Nick Seaver said in his TED Talk, quote, “My mind is like a bad neighborhood. I don't like to go there alone,” but I can tell you this, friends, I am discovering that the benefits of complete total silence outweigh the costs—and so, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to sign off and go do something that I used to poo-poo. I'm going to take a few minutes of quiet time to improve my overall well-being.
Think on these things for a few days, friends, and more than anything else, why don't you try breaking away from everything and just being quiet? Your mind, your body, your soul, your spirit will thank you. [18:00.0]
That’s going to do it for this episode. Until we meet again, this is Dr. Rick, asking you the most important question I can ask, how you livin’?
Are you ready to make an impact in your world right now? Do you want to stop existing and start living your best life right now? Dr. Rick wants to give you the first chapter of his bestselling book, “Lessons from a Third Grade Dropout”, absolutely free. Just go to www.RickRigsby.com/FreeGift to get the print or audiobook right now.
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