Evolutionary Psychology

Peace and Quiet

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Ask yourself how much time you have spent over the last week, other than when you were sleeping, in a state of peace and quiet. No stimuli bombarding you from anywhere, no work demands, no music, no television, no kids screaming for your attention, no traffic, just you and the silence. If you’re like most people in our culture your answer will be no time at all. Not even a few minutes.

It’s no wonder most of us feel so stressed out. Even when we’re relaxing we’re not really relaxing because we’re still actively using one of our or more of our five senses to process the information from the environment. Our modern, technological world has far outstripped our evolutionary hardwiring and it leaves most of us in a pretty tough spot, pining after something without really being able to put our fingers on what. But then we get out into nature or experience some real moments of solitude and it hits like a ton of bricks. This is what I’ve been missing.

The crazy part to think about is that for our ancestors living in nature, peace and quiet was the norm not the exception, at least in the sense that obviously none of the modern distractions constantly taking up our cognitive space existed. The fight for survival had its own set of very real stressors but still, feeling one with nature, looking up every night to see a starry sky in the silence, walking through the woods and fields — These were things most of us just don’t have access to on a regular basis.

You might not have the time to drop everything and go commune with mother nature but you can simulate the experience by making sure to section off blocks of time during the week where you just sit in the silence without any modern noise pollution. This experience can be disconcerting and highly uncomfortable at first. You feel like you should be doing something. But if you can just stay strong and refuse to succumb to instantly flipping on the television or reading a book the result will probably be a feeling of peace and calm that you can take into the rest of your life. You’ll be giving your brain a chance to take it easy instead of constantly working, forced to process the barrage of information flying in from all corners.