The Power of Silence

“Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom.”

– Francis Bacon

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Silence. What does that word bring up for you? Does it bring up fear? No TV, no internet videos, no talking! Or does it bring up a craving? No distractions, no barrage of noise.

I’ve been thinking a lot of about silence and sleep lately because of some neuroscience studies I’ve read about recently. Research shows that sleep and silence are much more important for our brains than we imagined.

Much of this research corroborates the research I did for my Creative Positive Reframing (CPR) process. In this process there are three main steps: Identify, Reframe and Embed.

Identify the negative – and then do some ‘Synaptic Pruning’

Reframe with positive messages

Embed with visualization, meditation and silence

We all have lots of negative, limiting beliefs about ourselves and our abilities that exist in our brains.  One of the best ways to stop these beliefs from having a free reign in your brain is to stop focusing on them and focus on something positive instead. But once we are able to stop focusing on them, how does the brain get rid of those negative thoughts that exist in old neural pathways?

Our brains get rid of old pathways with a process scientists call ‘Synaptic Pruning’

“Imagine your brain is a garden, except instead of growing flowers, fruits, and vegetables, you grow synaptic connections between neurons. These are the connections that neurotransmitters like dopamine, seratonin, and others travel across.

“Glial cells” are the gardeners of your brain—they act to speed up signals between certain neurons. But other glial cells are the waste removers, pulling up weeds, killing pests, raking up dead leaves. Your brain’s pruning gardeners are called “microglial cells.” They prune your synaptic connections. The question is, how do they know which ones to prune?

Researchers are just starting to unravel this mystery, but what they do know is the synaptic connections that get used less get marked by a protein, C1q (as well as others). When the microglial cells detect that mark, they bond to the protein and destroy—or prune—the synapse.

This is how your brain makes the physical space for you to build new and stronger connections so you can learn more.”

Perhaps you are not as interested in the science, so suffice it to say, that the more you use a neural pathway, the stronger it becomes. But the opposite is also true, when you use it less, it gets weaker.  So once you identify the negative belief system, STOP focusing on it! But then the brain needs time to do some clean up, getting rid of the old synaptic pathways.

Our brains need time to prune a lot of those old connections away and build more streamlined, efficient pathways. It does that when we sleep. Our brains do this clean out when we sleep—your brain cells shrinking by up to 60% to create space for your glial gardeners to come in take away the waste and prune the synapses.

And in fact, you actually have some control over what your brain decides to delete while you sleep. It’s the synaptic connections you don’t use that get marked for recycling. The ones you do use are the ones that get watered and oxygenated. So be mindful of what you’re thinking about.

So be mindful of what you are mindful of. Replace the negative with something positive, Reframe it. Be conscious of what you focus on.

There is a saying in neuroscience that neurons that fire together wire together. This means the more you run a neuro-circuit in your brain, the stronger that circuit becomes. Rick Hanson explains this well in his article in Greater Good.  So if you want to take limiting beliefs and creatively transforming them so that they become supportive rather than destructive, this is how you proceed. Hanson explains that ‘You can change your mind, to change your brain, to change your mind for the better!’

Then finally we need some silence to help embed these new neural pathways. Visualization and meditation are key factors. I often talk about the power of visualization and meditation in this blog. So much has been written about it, there is no question that both of these practices are hugely beneficial to the brain and to life!  But what about silence?  More and more research is showing just how important silence is for our brains.

 A 2013 study on mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice. The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.

The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons. “We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system. In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain.  The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence.

I’d like to close with a wonderful TED Talk by Nick Seaver called The Gift of Silence.

I hope you’ll take some time today and give yourself the gift of silence, and the gift of a great sleep as well. I’d love to hear about your experience with silence.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

 

 

Drunkorexia? Yeah it really is a thing . . .

“That’s all drugs and alcohol do, they cut off your emotions in the end.”

– Ringo Starr


Thank you to all of you that took my survey. I really appreciate it.  The survey results reflected what a lot of the research shows. A lot of middle aged women are drinking too much wine and it’s affecting their health and their families.

A few women who took the survey wrote personal notes to me; and most of the notes described the same thing – that the stress of trying to do too much was driving a lot of women to drink too much.

Somewhere along the way, the message that so many women in the 60s and 70s fought for –  that ‘A woman can do anything!’ got translated to ‘A woman must do everything . . . and do it well!’ And most of us are holding ourselves up to a pretty high standard. We’re trying to do it all and it’s killing us! Not only are we trying to do it all, but we want to look good while we do it.

A phenomenon nicknamed “drunkorexia,” (Urban Dictionary) is now impacting middle aged women. This phenomenon is an eating disorder compounded by alcohol abuse; it occurs when someone eats less to allocate more calories to alcohol. “Drunkorexia” used to be primarily found on college campuses, but more recently it has become a problem among middle-aged women.

We are pressured by others and indeed pressuring ourselves to excel in every way: professionally; to be sexy wives or partners; be good, diligent mothers; good home makers; be politically and socially engaged; and be beautiful with a great bod as well. The more stressed-out we become, the more we are turning to wine’s socially acceptable and absolutely encouraged numbing out quality to cope. But it becomes a worry when we realise that in reality we are not coping well at all.

I was fortunate today to be interviewed on ‘Breakfast’ – the wonderful morning show on TVNZ.

Here’s a brief clip from TVNZ where I am talking about Drunkorexia.

It was actually a really incredible day today! Not only did I have that interview on TVNZ, but right after that I went over to Coast FM Radio Station for another interview.

I’ll close this post with a short video from the radio interview.

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts about Drunkorexia. And as always thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it.

Women and Wine 2

“If you’re a sophisticated professional woman, you’ve come to know your wines. It has become the modern woman’s steroid.”

– Ann Dowsett Johnston


Hey Everyone – I’m doing a survey about ‘Women and Wine’ for an article I’m writing.

It’s completely anonymous and I’d really appreciate your feedback.

I’ll posts the results here with the article soon.

Click Here to to do the second survey.

Thank you again in advance!

Women and Wine

 

“If you’re a sophisticated professional woman, you’ve come to know your wines. It has become the modern woman’s steroid.”

– Ann Dowsett Johnston


Hey Everyone – I’m doing a survey about ‘Women and Wine’ for an article I’m writing.

It’s completely anonymous and I’d really appreciate your feedback.

I’ll posts the results here with the article soon.

Just go HERE  to do the survey.

Thanks in advance!

 

How To Avoid Feeling Homesick For The Self

“Creativity is a great motivator because it makes people interested in what they are doing. Creativity gives hope that there can be a worthwhile idea. Creativity gives the possibility of some sort of achievement to everyone. Creativity makes life more fun and more interesting.”
 Edward de Bono

I’m so happy to feature a guest blogger this month. Carol Walsh is a fellow author at She Writes Press and a friend.  Carol’s book, Painting Life: My Creative Journey Through Trauma will be available at the end of this month.

Carol is a talented artist and writer who also happens to be a wonderful therapist.  Do check out her website to find out more about her.

How To Avoid Feeling Homesick For The Self

If I have not been able to be creative, I feel homesick for my Self. I actually feel a physical sense of longing way down deep in the core of my gut. I feel lost. It’s also a feeling that’s reminiscent of my childhood.

When I was a young girl, I couldn’t go away for the night, or I would become homesick. This was a bit inhibiting; but I was sure that if I left home for too long I would be forgotten. I had to go back home to reclaim my space within the family.

As an adult, feelings of homesickness emerge when I forget myself – that is, forget who I am and what I’m about. When I forget me, I need to touch base with my soul, my spirit, so I can reconnect with my Self.

In this crazy, busy time, many of us forget to touch base with our core Self. We forget about our needs, priorities and values. When we aren’t in touch with ourselves, we can’t make effective choices, because there is no Us to turn to for information.

When we are connected to our core, we can make conscious choices. This is so important because all choices need to reflect who we are — our meaning and purpose in life.

Creativity is a terrific way to access our core Self. As we mature, we have different needs and awareness’s and therefore we need to make different choices. Creativity helps us keep in touch with those changes.

I love this quote from Sophia Loren: “There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.”

In general, it is best to pick one creative outlet that you can routinely engage in, to help you touch base with your inner Self. That will be one of healthiest habits you could add to your schedule – even if it is for one half hour, once a week.

 Try one of these exercises while asking yourself the question, What is my mission and purpose in this life?

Exercise no.1. Get a journal (with no lines), or a blank piece of paper and then, with your non-dominant hand, write two sentences, one that begins with: “I am a —.” Then write a second sentence that begin with: “My purpose in life is —-.“

Exercise no. 2. Cut out a number of photos, from several magazines, that speak to you. Then arrange these in a pleasing way and glue them to a large piece of cardboard. While looking at the collage, ask yourself: “What does this say about who I am, and what my life mission is?”

Exercise no. 3. On a blank sheet of paper and in a vertical column write the words like this:

6 months,

year 1,

year 3,

year 5

year 10.

Then, beside each time frame write two things you would like to manifest during that time. On a new page, begin with the items in the six months category, and note the first three action steps you need to take to achieve each of these.

 

Thank you Carol! And now I’d like to close with another She Writes Press fellow author, and one of the founders of SWP, Brooke Warner. If you are thinking about writing your own memoir, Brooke’s book, Green Light Your Book is a must!  Here’s a video about it:

 

 

I’d love to hear about how you stay connected to your creativity and thus to your self. And as always thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it.