Chronically Quiet

70. never aloneMany of us are lonely and alone…and it’s sad.

But let’s look at some of the great revelations and benefits found in silence and solitude that other people (smartphone users check their device every 6.5 minutes, which works out to mean around 150 times a day) miss out on. Silence has been replaced with a cacophony of communication, and solitude with social media.

Here are ten (as described by Thai Nguyen):

1.       Bypassing Burnout:

Too often our culture parallels self-worth with productivity levels. Whether it’s asking what our country can do for us, or what we can do for our country, the question remains—what is left to be done? It’s a one-way ticket to burnout.

Solitude allows for a break from the tyrant of productivity. What’s more is that doing nothing helps with doing much rather than being in opposition. Promega is a company with on-the-job “third spaces” where employees are able to take solitude breaks and meditate in natural light. This has resulted in numerous health benefits as well as improved productivity levels for the company.

2.       Heightened Sensitivity (ok, maybe we don’t want this one):

For many, attempting ten days of silence would be akin to walking on water. Vipassana silent retreats are exactly that; participants are instructed to refrain from reading, writing, or eye contact.

One hundred scientists went on a retreat for research and noted that shutting off the faculty of speech heightens awareness in other areas. Beginning with breathing, that focus and sensitivity is then transferred to sights, sounds, sensations, thoughts, intentions and emotions.

3.       Dissolving Tomorrow’s Troubles:

Alan Watts argues that our frustration and anxiety is rooted in feeling and being disconnected—living in the future or the past is nothing but an illusion.

Silence brings our awareness back to the present. This is where concrete happiness is experienced. Watts makes the distinction between our basic and ingenious consciousness; the latter makes predictions based on our memories, which seem so real to the mind that we’re caught in a hypothetical abstraction. It plans out our lives with an abstract happiness, but an abstract happiness can also be a very real disappointment.

The future falls short of what the present can deliver. Silence and solitude can help immerses us back in the present moment.

2014 1. nature4.      Improves Memory (fibro what?):

Combining solitude with a walk in nature causes brain growth in the hippocampus region, resulting in better memory.

Evolutionists explain that being in nature sparks our spatial memory as it did when our ancestors went hunting—remembering where the food and predators were was essential for survival. Taking a walk alone gives the brain uninterrupted focus and helps with memory consolidation.

5.       Strengthens Intention and Action:

Psychologist Kelly McGonigal says during silence, the mind is best able to cultivate a form of mindful intention that later motivates us to take action.

Intentional silence puts us in a state of mental reflection and disengages our intellectual mind. At that point McGonigal says to ask yourself three questions:

“If anything were possible, what would I welcome or create in my life?”

“When I’m feeling most courageous and inspired, what do I want to offer the world?”

“When I’m honest about how I suffer, what do I want to make peace with?”

Removing our critical minds allows the imagination and positive emotions to build a subconscious intention and add fuel to our goals.

McGonigal explains, “When you approach the practice of figuring this stuff out in that way, you start to get images and memories and ideas that are different than if you tried to answer those questions intellectually.”

6.       Increases Self-Awareness:

In silence, we make room for the self-awareness that allows us to be in control of our actions, rather than under their control. The break from external voices puts us in tune to our inner voices—and it’s those inner voices that drive our actions. Awareness leads to control.

We must practice becoming an observer of our thoughts. The human will is strengthened whenever we choose not to respond to every actionable thought.

7.       Grow Your Brain (oh, another one that really couldn’t hurt any of us!):

The brain is the most complex and powerful organ, and like muscles, benefits from rest. UCLA research showed that regular times set aside to disengage, sit in silence, and mentally rest, improves the “folding” of the cortex and boosts our ability to process information.

Carving out as little as 10 minutes to sit in our car and visualize peaceful scenery (rainforest, snow-falling, beach) will thicken grey matter in our brains.

8.       “A-Ha” Moments:

The creative process includes a crucial stage called incubation, where all the ideas we’ve been exposed to get to meet, mingle, marinate – then produce an “A-ha” moment. The secret to incubation? Nothing. Literally. Disengage from the work at hand, and take a rest. It’s also the elixir for mental blocks. What’s typically seen as useless daydreaming is now being seen as an essential experience.

9.       Mastering Discomfort:

Just when we’ve found a quiet place to sit alone and reflect, an itch will beckon to be scratched. But many meditation teachers will encourage us to refrain and breathe into the experience until it passes (Remember Eat, Pray, Love?).

Along with bringing our minds back from distracting thoughts and to our breathing, these practices work to build greater self-discipline.

10.     Emotional Cleansing

Our fight/flight mechanism causes us to flee not only from physical difficulties, but also emotional difficulties. Ignoring and burying negative emotions, however, only causes them to manifest in the form of stress, anxiety, anger and insomnia.

Strategies to release emotional turbulence include sitting in silence and thinking in detail about what triggered the negative emotion. The key is to do so as an observer—stepping outside of ourselves as if we’re reporting for a newspaper. It’s a visualization technique used by psychotherapists to detach a person from their emotions, which allows them to process an experience objectively and rationally.

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You Could Have Asked Me…

New findings published in Arthritis & Rheumatology, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), suggest that brain abnormalities in response to non-painful sensory stimulation may cause the hypersensitivity (increased unpleasantness) that patients experience in response to (‘normally’ non-painful) daily visual, auditory and tactile stimulation.

According to the study, patients reported increased unpleasantness in response to multi-sensory stimulation in daily life activities. Furthermore, the fMRI images displayed reduced activation of both the primary and secondary visual and auditory areas of the brain, and increased activation to visual, auditory and tactile stimulation that patients reported to experience in daily life.

191. broken wing

Lead study author, Dr Marina López-Solà from the Institute of Cognitive Science, University of Colorado Boulder said, “Our study provides new evidence that fibromyalgia patients display altered central processing in response to multi-sensory stimulation, which are linked to core fibromyalgia symptoms and may be part of the disease pathology. The finding of reduced cortical activation in the visual and auditory brain areas that were associated with patient pain complaints may offer novel targets for neuro-stimulation treatments in fibromyalgia patients.”

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Did the Earth Move for You, Too?

According to recent study findings by Anthony S. Kaleth, PhD, associate professor at the School of Physical Education and Tourism Management, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, whole-body vibration exercise effectively reduced the severity of pain in patients with fibromyalgia.

146. best exerciseBUT it is not entirely clear whether these improvements were the result of added vibration or just the effects of being more active.

24 women with FM were randomly assigned to either 8 weeks of twice-weekly, lower-body, progressive-resistance exercise with whole-body vibration or an attention control group. Whole-body vibration involved patients standing, sitting or laying on a vibrating platform to induce alternating muscle contraction and relaxation.

Patients were assessed at baseline and at 8-week follow-up for fibromyalgia-related physical function, pain severity and muscle strength.

The researchers found a significant improvement in pain severity among patients in the whole-body vibration group compared with controls, but the magnitude of muscular strength improvement was not different between groups.

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Sometimes a Duck is…

So, it’s Winter in Australia – not as cold as some places but, still, too cold for me.

I have been suffering from intense pain in my rib-cage and chest. The aching and stabbing pain felt like I had broken and bruised ribs.

Bloody hell! I thought, it’s that awful costochondritis AGAIN!!!

For over a week, every morning I was waking up in extreme pain. It seemed to dissipate by the time it was bed-time. But then, it would all start again.

After a week of agony and really cold weather, I finally realised that I was sleeping all curled up, in the foetal position, and it was my own elbows causing all that pain!

Sometimes a duck is just a duck!

117. fibro duck

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At Least, it isn’t Cancer.

The following post appeared at reachwhite.com; however (and it’s a BIG however) I have taken some liberties. It was originally about Lyme disease but I empathised completely with the author, from my fibromyalgia-racked perspective. So I am sure that some of you feel the same way (not all of you, I know that!). Basically, this is a re-blog but I have replaced Lyme Disease with Fibromyalgia and ME/CFS.

invisible

Here goes:

I probably won’t make a lot of friends with this post — but I hope I don’t make any enemies either. I hope that what I’m not saying is as clear as what I am saying.

I’m not saying that Fibromyalgia and/or ME/CFS is worse than Cancer. I’m not trying to make any comparison between the two diseases…as diseases. Both Cancer and Fibromyalgia and/or ME/CFS are devastating. Both wreck families. Both make patients unable: unable to stay awake, unable to sleep, unable to work. Both impact on functional status and well-being and reduce quality of life.

But there are some notable differences — and those differences are all in how other people respond to the illness. How other people perceive the sick person, and the sick person’s family.

If you have Cancer, or another sickness from the established disease Canon: the register of approved diseases (Diabetes or AIDS or Parkinson’s or Multiple Sclerosis or Cancer), people will listen.

If you have Cancer, your health insurance will probably cover your treatment, at least partially…whatever you want that treatment to be.

If you have Fibromyalgia and/or ME/CFS, you will get letters from your health insurance company saying that they can’t cover any of your treatment because their guidelines don’t recognize chronic Fibromyalgia and/or ME/CFS.

If you have Cancer, people will establish foundations, and run 5k’s, and pass acts in Congress and wear ribbons and buy bracelets and pink things to raise funds for research — to the tune of billions a year.

If you have Fibromyalgia and/or ME/CFS, no one will raise funds for research, or even believe that you have a disease. But you’ll look around one Saturday and realize your 5-year-old daughter is missing…and you’ll find her down the street, peddling her artwork and her trinkets door-to-door: to raise money for the family.

If you have Fibromyalgia and/or ME/CFS, you will go broke…while you’re going for broke.

If you have Cancer, and you’re a kid, the Make-A-Wish Foundation will arrange for you to meet your favorite celebrity or go to Disney World.  And Hollywood will make movie, after movie, after movie about your story.

If you have Fibromyalgia and/or ME/CFS, and you’re a kid, your gym teacher will tell you that you have to run the mile unless you can get a note from your doctor. Your teachers will fail you for missing too many days of school. And people will tell your parents that you’re just going through a phase.

If your dad or your mom has Cancer, people will organize workshops and therapy groups for you. People will tell you that it’s OK to express your feelings.

If your dad has Fibromyalgia and/or ME/CFS, people will tell you that he doesn’t love you. Let me repeat that and assure you that I do not exaggerate. If you’re a kid, and your dad has Fibromyalgia and/or ME/CFS, well-meaning people will tell you that, if your daddy loved you more, he would try to get better.

If your husband has Cancer, ladies from your church will show up at your door with casseroles.

If your husband has Fibromyalgia and/or ME/CFS, ladies from your church, even people in your own family, will tell you to leave him; or call you an enabler. But you’ll be too busy helping him crawl from his bed to the couch, or steadying him as he stands so that he can use the bathroom, or helping him finish his work so that your kids can eat to wonder what, exactly, you’re enabling him to do.

If people ask you: “Is your dad sick?” And you say: “He has Cancer.” Their eyes will well up. They’ll squeeze your hand and offer to bring you dinner, put you on their prayer list. They’ll say: “If there’s anything we can do…” And they’ll mean it.

If people ask you: “Is your dad sick?” And you say: “He has chronic Fibromyalgia and/or ME/CFS.” They will look confused for a moment. They’ll say: “What?” And then they’ll shake their heads, smile, and say:

“Well…at least it isn’t Cancer.”

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