Why I stopped ‘listening’.

From the moment our eyes flutter awake in the morning until we close them at night, it’s possible to fill our entire day with stuff. 

Content is everywhere, in every shape or form; podcasts, audio books, Spotify, YouTube, Instagram, news sites, blog sites, all the varying social media platforms to mention a few. You could literally spend every waking hour watching or listening to something and still not have scratched the surface of new content created and published on that day.

Recently, I’ve tried to change those habits.

A few months ago, my sleeping was off, I was taking ages to fall asleep due to what I call “busy brain”. Where your brain starts to wind down and processes everything that happened throughout the day; that conversation, that moment between friends, a touch, a laugh, a tone of voice perceived in the wrong way…I was finding it difficult to switch off, to the point that I even started silencing my “busy brain” with guided sleep meditation videos on YouTube. They worked for a time, but soon enough, my mind started screaming through the very relaxing voice attempting to guide me to a blissful sleep.

Something needed to change. I was becoming increasingly stressed at work, to the point where I was hating going in, feeling on the edge of tears at several points throughout the week, worrying more than usual about everything, personal and work related, I was becoming snippy, unhappy and generally exhausted. The lack of sleep wasn’t helping.

Ironically enough, I listened to a podcast about sleep and how imperative it is to our overall health and well being. I’ll be honest, I knew it was important, but the lasting damage lack of sleep can have on a persons life is quite shocking. It was an eye-opening listen and it got me thinking about my sleep and how I didn’t feel like I was getting adequate sleep.

I’d gotten in to a habit of listening to music as soon as I got up, while I was in the shower, while I was getting ready and at the gym.
On my lunch, due to a spate of anxiety last year, I would listen to a podcast to make myself feel at ease walking around in public, while I was food shopping I would have music on or listen to a podcast, when I got home from work I would have music or a podcast on while I was preparing dinner then Netflix or YouTube would be on in the background if I doing things around the house.
If I was doing yoga, I would mostly have a yoga tutorial on, with visual and audio guidance and even my night time found me listening to someone trying to guide me to sleep.

My “busy brain” was never given a window to process.

So, I stopped listening.

I made a conscious effort to not listen to music while I was in the shower and let my body and mind wake up in silence. I eased myself away from listening to podcasts on my lunch, something I did slowly as I still felt nervous without having headphones in and I kept the music off when I was cooking dinner.

It was simple, but liberating.

My mind chattered away and processed the mornings events over my lunch walk, while I listened to birds, rather than podcasts and it processed my afternoon while I was chopping away and listening to sizzle of food being cooked.

The move I was made was sudden, to stop listening and to give myself some time.
And the effects were also sudden.
I was falling asleep within minutes, feeling happier, work felt less like it was crushing me with stress and surprisingly felt less anxious than I had been before when I hid behind my wall of sound and headphones.
If my anxiety does rear its ugly head, I’ve taken to holding gyan mudra as I walk around – it’s a simple mudra, that no one would notice unless they’re really paying attention to you.

I’m not one for long meditation or sitting in silence, but I’m happy for my mind to buzz away while I’m doing something else that doesn’t take too much brain capacity, such as walking or cooking.

I’m not going to sit here and preach to the choir, I don’t live my life in silence all of the time. I still listen to podcasts because I like them and I do still listen to music while I cook every now and then, because dancing around the kitchen on a Friday night is fun and exerts your busy brain chatter in another way.

I’m listening to music, right now as I write this post, because it gives me focus. But my main point is that sometimes it’s good to step away and stop listening. Instead listen to the world around you, the birds, the traffic, the wind, people chatting as they walk past and let your mind take a break from the constant content.

And, yes, Karen*, we still see your posts, you were in Sainsbury’s buying strawberries, but do we really need to know that?
Or do our minds need to take precedence and let itself process that wonderful moment you shared with a friend earlier that day and archive it away for you to think about in years to come?

Should we make a conscious effort to ditch the content more often?

Do you give your mind time to compartmentalise and decompress at any points of the day?

Thanks for reading!

*Karen doesn’t specifically exist in my life or exist in my friends list, but lets face it, we all have a Karen on at least one social media platform. One of the many reasons Facebook is rarely checked.

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