Perhaps by now you've started–or have at least thought about starting–an exercise plan. Good for you! Incorporating exercise into your life is not easy, but as you begin to experience the many positive effects like stress-relief, increased energy and a healthier heart, you'll find it a worthwhile effort.
One aspect of health that is often overlooked in today’s cultural climate is silence. Silence affects our mental, emotional and physical health. Dr. Jack Westman, professor emeritus of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, says, “Noxious levels of sound are stressful and they may evoke a whole range of physical responses. The most common are an increase in blood pressure and heart rate.” Current research suggests that silence exercises are useful in treating pain, stress, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and addiction, among others.
Author William Penn praised silence more poetically: “True silence is the rest of the mind; it is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment.” To take care of ourselves fully, we must give our bodies and spirits nourishment each day.
But physical exercise is not the most silence-enhancing activity! If you run, there is pounding. If you go to a gym, there is music and people. It's fair to say that exercise is intense and loud in its own way, because it is moving the body to action. Silence balances this intensity. As Penn noted, “True silence is the rest of the mind.” Silence is a necessary aspect of holistic health because it's an opportunity to reflect deeply on who we are, who we want to be, and how we are to get there. If we want to live a purposeful, full life, we need daily silence to discern what this looks like for each of us.
As you plan your daily dose of exercise, incorporate times of quiet too. Find a comfortable place, free of distractions, and begin with 5 minutes of silence every morning or evening. Slowly increase this to 10, 15 or 20 minutes. In the beginning, it may feel like an eternity; but with practice, even 20 minutes won't seem like enough. Use this precious time for prayer, meditation, observing your thoughts, deep breathing, or other silence exercises.
For any busy woman, starting an exercise routine can be daunting; so can making quiet time a priority. But Confucius said, “Silence is the true friend that never betrays.” Along with bringing peace and joy into our lives, friends sometimes call us out by telling us when we're on the wrong track, or to stop an activity that's hurting us. When we make time for it, silence will take a friendship role in our lives, helping us focus on what is most important in life, and how we are uniquely called to fulfill it.
Photo via flickr user Lucile Dizier
Kate is a graduate of the National Personal Training Institute in Vienna, VA and recently started her own personal training business
. She went into her studies with the whole person–body and spirit–at the forefront of her mind. She hopes to help women see their bodies as gifts that reflect who they are as unique individuals.