09 Aug The Sound of Silence
Ahhh, the joys of peace and quiet! There’s really nothing quite like basking in the soothing, sweet silence. Take a deep breath. Can’t you just feel it?
This is the real world! Depending on who you are, you might have to deal with loud traffic, louder neighbors, screaming children, the game your partner won’t turn off, constant phone notifications, and about a thousand other little annoyances that keep you from achieving the Zen-like state of ultimate relaxation that all of those active wear models in yoga pants advertisements seem to have achieved.
And that’s just the noise going on outside of your head! What about the soundscape inside our minds? As you may know, chronic diseases like PCOS can lead to elevated rates of stress, anxiety, and depression. This is in part because the PCOS brain is constantly trying to reestablish equilibrium amidst a bath of excess hormones, especially androgens. The downstream effect of this constant hormone bath can be an increase in something called perseverative thinking, which is a fancy-schmancy psychological term for unhelpful and persistent patterns of though such as endless loops of worrying or brooding about negative subjects. Taken together, this can create a non-stop brass band of negative, pessimistic, and self-judging chatter inside your mind. Not only does this kind of inner monologue exacerbate depression and anxiety, but it also crowds out more positive and helpful cognitive processes, such as positive thinking, planning, and concentration.
So what’s the solution? We need to turn down the volume, both outside and inside our brains. Think about it, how often do you ever get to experience true peace and quiet? Doing so can give us a refreshing breather that allows us to recharge, reset, and rejuvenate.
Here’s how you can get started:
- Make a commitment to yourself that you will “unplug” for at least 20 minutes. Preferably every day, but at least a few times per week.
- Find a time when you can be completely alone, or at least in a room by yourself, for this 20 minute period. Many people like to have their quiet time when they first wake up or just before bed, but any time is fine.
- Turn off your phone (that’s right, I said off!), tablet, computer, TV, radio, other phone (nice try) and any other potential distractions. If absolute quiet unnerves you, or is impossible where you live, try buying a small inexpensive Zen fountain or white noise machine.
- Turn the lights down low and sit down in a comfortable position, such as in a sturdy chair or on a cushion. If sitting is uncomfortable, try reclining slightly.
- Close your eyes and start taking deep, slow breaths into your belly. You should be able to feel your belly rise and fall as you breath.
- Doubtless, thoughts will immediately start flooding your mind. That’s okay! Just let them come and go, while you focus your attention on what it feels like to breathe, the air moving through your nostrils, or the movement of your chest or belly.
- If you catch yourself getting swept up in a train of thought, gently return your attention back to your breath.
Remember, the goal of this exercise is not to achieve enlightenment, a completely quiet mind, or a solution to your problems. It is to give your mind a break from working so hard, by allowing it to focus on just one thing (your breath) in a relaxing way. It might take you a few sessions to really start to feel the relaxation benefits from this practice, and that’s fine. Ironically enough, we often have to practice at relaxing to get better at it!
So if you are tired of the constant roar outside, and inside, your brain – turn the volume down! Make it a brief, easy daily practice and be amazed at how much it helps keep you feeling calmer and more in control.
Barry, J. A., Kuczmierczyk, A. R., & Hardiman, P. J. (2011). Anxiety and depression in polycystic ovary syndrome: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Human Reproduction, 26(9), 2442–2451. http://doi.org/10.1093/humrep/der197
Sorg, S., Vogele, C., Furka, N., & Meyer, A. H. (2012). Perseverative thinking in depression and anxiety. Frontiers in Psychology, 3(FEB), 1–6. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00020