Is your brain too noisy?

Everyone has different needs for quiet time, time when not being bombarded by demands and questions. But everyone surely needs some of it. Enough of it. And, it seems to me, the modern lifestyle very often doesn’t allow enough of it. We tend to fill those times that would once have been quiet with noise and communication: computers, computer games, social media, etc. I am as guilty of this as any teenager.

Here’s a thought experiment. Imagine you’re sitting on a chair trying to be as relaxed as possible. Then imagine someone asks you a question. Or tells you a fact. And asks another question before you can answer the first. And another. And another. Imagine the questions coming from all sides. Different sorts of questions, all requiring a response. Or statements requiring you to listen, understand, react or ignore.

You’d be stressed pretty quickly, wouldn’t you? Your heart-rate would rise and your brain be full of action. In many ways, that’s what a busy day is like. School pupils are bombarded by questions and demands all through the school day. So are teachers. So are parents with children at home. So are people working in any number of busy situations. We snatch breaks when we can. But do we make sure those breaks include peace and quiet, genuine breaks with no demands on heart rate and brain energy?

Theoretically, usually, adults have some kind of control over their breaks. A bit more, at any rate, than teenagers do.

I’ve come across many schools who are as concerned as I am about the lack of quiet time for pupils. And I’ve come across some who are dealing with it in an interesting way: by introducing (or re-introducing) silent reading times. Every school which has told me about it has reported that, despite some initial resistance from some pupils and some staff, after a trial period of a few months, both pupils and staff overwhelmingly wanted to continue, valuing the peace. Of course, there are important things to consider to make this work, such as allowing all pupils to choose freely what they read, and ensuring that reluctant readers are catered for. But could it work for you? Is it worth trying?

But even if this isn’t possible for your school or family, can you find a way to build quiet time into everyone’s day? Internet and phones off…

I believe it’s essential to mental health and wellbeing. I also believe it’s essential for good brain performance and for creativity.

The stakes couldn’t be higher. And yet the solution is simple. And costs nothing.

Just let your brain be quiet.

6 Responses

  1. I’m recently home from a month under canvas in the Scottish islands – occasional wifi and very patchy mobile signal. I always take time completely away from the ‘noise’ in the summer – I think it recharges my brain for the year ahead. Nice post!

  2. Excellent advice. As I get older I find the traffic noise and racket of trains and announcements more intrusive in inverse proportion (have I got that the correct way round) to being able to hear what people say in crowded pubs and restaurants. Unfair!

  3. So important to have quiet times – and so hard to find them. Note to self … turn the computer off … after I’ve checked twitter … and facebook … and seen if there are comments on the blog …

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