“Anything in my life that I would recommend to someone else just to make their life better? An underrated thing that you can do that no one does anymore: just sit in a dark room. Give yourself, like, twenty minutes, don’t meditate, actually think about things, and I feel like…if you have a bunch of problems in your life, it’s amazing how twenty minutes alone in a dark room in the middle of the day can change everything.“
– Chuck Klosterman on the How To Be Amazing with Michael Ian Black podcast
When I put my daughter to bed, she likes for me to sit with her until she falls asleep. We don’t need to talk. I don’t need to rub her head. In fact, I don’t even sit on the bed – I sit on the floor with my back against the side of her bed. She likes just having me there until she drifts away.
I don’t usually indulge her, because like all things with kids, once you create a habit, it is very, very hard to break it. However, if I’ve missed some time with her or if she’s scared or I think she could really benefit from me being there, I’ll stay.
I don’t look at my phone. I don’t even look at her. I sit quietly on the hardwood floor, in the dark, listening to her breathe, and I let my mind goes where it wants.
And things quickly fall into place. Thoughts, ideas, plans, worries, and stresses that were a jumbled mess weighing on my brain all day quickly sort themselves out and I suddenly have a stroke of clarity. Everything isn’t resolved, but there is a plan, a road map. I’ve had some of my best creative breakthroughs this way. When you give your mind ample time and space and quiet, it will be more than worth your while.
Have you ever looked at one of those hidden image pictures? You desperately try to see it with no luck only until the moment it appears and, no matter how hard you try, you can never go back and unsee it?
That’s what your brain does when you shut everything off. No lights. No screens. No noise. Not even a book. Just you and your thoughts.
Research continues to mount that too much stimulation – particularly the kind offered by the internet – can lead to anxiety and depression. We are bombarded nonstop our entire lives that sensory overload becomes our default setting to the point that everyday noise is literally killing us. No wonder people are pissed off and depressed and manic and need so much medication to cope that it sounds like they’re carrying around a pair of maracas. Our human brains haven’t evolved to the point that we can take in all of this, let alone absorb and analyze it.
Turning off is not only healthy for you, it’s imperative for your well-being and survival.
Sit there with yourself, with all of your awkwardness and fears and disappointments and worries and embarrassments. Sit there with nothing more than your thoughts.
When I was a kid, I remember every so often my father would sit in the living room with nothing on – no lights, no TV, nothing. He would sit there quietly, his head rested on the back on the couch, eyes closed, a look of calm on his face. I never interrupted him, and he only did it for a few minutes, but I always thought it was weird, mostly because kids don’t believe in the concept of overstimulation. Yet, as I got older I understood completely. I too found myself often wanting to retreat from the frenzy, if only for ten minutes. I needed to do a Ctrl+Alt+Delte on my brain and reboot and I found that it would often help to clear out the junk and help bring me back to center.
I don’t put much stock in morning routines or life hacks or any of the other self-help pseudoscience that is published in droves online every day. You don’t need to wake up at 3 a.m. or write 50 pages before breakfast or run to Maine and back to have a great day and a fulfilling life.
All you need to do is unplug. Give it a shot.
You’ll be so happy with the results that you’ll immediately go online to tell everyone.
Christopher Pierznik’s new book, Hip-Hop Scholar, will be released June 27th. His other eight books are currently available in paperback and Kindle. His work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, Medium, Fatherly, Hip Hop Golden Age, and many more. Subscribe to his monthly reading review newsletter or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.