Lately I’ve been finding myself wanting to slow down time, take it easy, go for long walks, and simplify my life. I’m searching for quiet places, those little pockets of stillness in every day life.
Quiet places are a sacred space in a noisy world. In a world constantly demanding your attention, getting notifications left and right and pinging you every other minute, we need quiet places.
Without them, we start to get anxious. We worry about the future. We dwell on the past. We ruminate until the guilt eats away at us.
How to Find Quiet Places in Your Day
But we always have a choice. To stop in the middle of the chaos, to not give in to the endless external demands on our time and energy. To find a quiet place, or space, in our day where we can finally exhale the weight of the world and inhale a renewed sense of life.
Meditation does this. Prayer does this. When I was in college I used to go to this really old church and sit in the velvet-lined pews when no one else was there so I could have a place to think. Now I walk up to the park near my house and sit under this big tree and write. It’s where I’m writing now.
Sometimes people are our quiet place. I can think of a few people throughout my lifetime who have been my quiet place, a shoulder to rest your head on after a long day. And beyond that, quiet moments. A pause after a tense or stressful event, a refuge from the storm. Those little pauses when you can hear your intuition and you just know everything is going to be ok, even if it doesn’t look like it right now.
We need more quiet places in our life. When the deadlines are coming up and meetings are demanding your time and you have one more assignment than the time you were allotted, sometimes you just need to press pause and slow it down.
This is from our Slow it Down class about slowing down and simplifying your life, and getting rid of anxiety.
I could start this topic in so many different ways. I could write about the fact that I have been listening to Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” song on repeat all day today (in preparation for writing this ;)), or I could talk about how my mind is drawing a blank right now, or I could write about how my life as an entrepreneur is filled with white space and free time and time to just “be.”
Ultimately, all these things are true. Blank space, or white space, is what I call those pockets in your day when you’re free to just breathe and be in the world. It’s time when you can take a pause in your day, collect your thoughts, and count every breath in and out if you want because you have nothing to worry about and nothing pressing to attend to.
Why Always Being Busy Doesn’t Help Depression
This morning I was watching a motivational video from a popular entrepreneur and I was going along with it and nodding my head in agreement the whole time until he dropped the fact that he’s been working 19 hours a day for the last 20 years.
Now, he is very successful, but I would argue that if you work 19 hours a day at anything (or even 12 or 15 or less), you’re going to stress yourself out and ruin your mental health.
In my opinion, it’s just not worth it, and it’s not necessary.
We live in a culture where being busy is praised as hard-working, but I think we should focus more on the tasks that matter and make a difference and less time doing things that make you seem really “busy” but aren’t actually productive.
Instead of running in a hamster wheel and having constant movement but making no real progress, we need to get out of the cage. You don’t have to always look busy to have a productive life.
Sometimes when people work too much (at school or work), they get burned out, anxious, or even depressed. I’ve seen a few quotes lately that the cure for depression is to constantly be busy, and I have to disagree.
I think we need more white space in our day, and time to do nothing.
I’ve been writing 5 blog posts a day for the last month for Resilient and I still only work 4 or 5 hours a day. That’s because I know how important it is to take time for yourself, relax, take breaks every hour or two, meditate, and have time to just do absolutely nothing. Having this free, unscheduled time in your day will dramatically improve your stress levels.
If you’ve scheduled every minute of your day from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed, of course you’re going to feel anxious and overwhelmed. At first having a moment when you have no responsibilities or tasks to complete is very unnerving. But if you just sit with the discomfort, over time you’ll find that it’s a relief to have time to yourself for the first time.
What would you do with 15 minutes of free time? (or hopefully more). You could read a book for fun, learn about personal development, read our blog, look at inspirational quotes, meditate, write a gratitude list, or just lay on the grass and watch the clouds. It’s amazing what this can do for your mental health.
How to Add White Space to Your Day
If you’re a very busy person, perhaps your white space is mainly the time right before you fall asleep or when you’re taking a shower. You’re finally alone and you have a few minutes to yourself. We often have our best thoughts and creative ideas when we have this quiet time to ourselves. Or maybe if your life is more like mine you have lots of unscheduled time and don’t have any particular place to be at any given time, so you’re free to do what you want and take breaks anytime.
Having this blank space in your day – preferably throughout the day but at least once a day – whether through your meditation practice, prayer, or just five minutes of downtime when you get home from work, is so very important. If your life is full of anxiety and stress, you probably think that you don’t have a moment to waste on something like “white space.”
Consider this quote,
“I have so much to do that I spend several hours in prayer before I am able to do it.” —John Wesley
Even if you’re not religious or spiritual, you can replace praying with our version of having blank space or downtime in your day. In other words, you’re too busy not to take a breather every now and then. It actually makes you more productive during the other times when you are working.
So what does blank space actually entail? Well, whatever you want! You can use this time to meditate, pray, rest, take a nap, sit and stare at the wall, reflect, gather your thoughts – anything you’d like. Sometimes I just lay on my bed and think. The only rule is that you’re not allowed to do something on your to-do list!
Action step: How can you add blank space to your day? (ala Taylor Swift :)). Make room for at least 15 minutes of free time in your day when you can do nothing, and don’t feel guilty about it! Try to make this a new daily habit.