Finding Stillness in nature

Finding Stillness

I love the beginning of the year.  It’s a period of reflection and excitement for what lies ahead.  Coming off the manic holidays, I found myself craving quiet and the time to be introspective.  Life is noisy, and distractions, masking themselves as urgent, overwhelmingly dictate our time.  Finding stillness can have benefits for our wellbeing and create opportunities for kindness.

Finding Stillness – An Individual Endeavor

The word, stillness, has depth.  The definition that popped up when I googled it was “the absence of movement or sound.”  But that’s not the version of stillness that speaks to me.  I prefer Merriam-Webster’s: “as in restfulness – a state of freedom from storm or disturbance.”

Stillness comes in many forms and each of us must discover our own.  While one may prefer silence and low light, another may find respite in music and movement.  Stillness is not necessarily about your environment; it’s about finding inner calm and control.  In this article, Psychologist Karin Lawson, PsyD, explains, “the key is to create an intention of stillness‑to have some intentionality about how we’re carrying ourselves in a given moment‑and to focus on what is within our control.”

Why Stillness?

Why should we take time to be still when we could be checking things off our to-do list

1. Reduce stress.

Many different forms of stillness have been proven to decrease your stress levels.  Nature walks, meditation, physical exercise, and even playing with your pet are just a few examples of ways you can de-stress and improve your physical and mental health at the same time.

2. Increase creativity.

Switching off and giving your brain time to rest may lead you to new ideas and solutions. 

Stillness is where creativity and solutions to problems are found.

– Eckhart Tolle

3.  Increase concentration.

According to Dr. Kirk Daffner, a Harvard affiliated neurologist, information overload can affect a person’s ability to concentrate.  “When there’s too much material, it burdens our filtering system and it’s easy to get distracted,” he explained.  Switching off inputs like the news and podcasts and practicing stillness gives your brain the time it needs to process information.

Stillness = Meditation?

No.  At least, not according to me.  Meditation is a form of stillness, but I don’t think the only way to find stillness is meditation.  I’m sure you’ve heard (or know firsthand) about the benefits of meditation.  I also know them well, and I’ve been trying on and off for years to “get into” meditation.  But somehow, I just can’t stick with it.  As a person who has done my Yoga Teacher’s Training, that’s embarrassing to admit.

I’m not giving up on it, though.  My friend, Shelby, who is a yoga teacher trainer suggested incorporating movement into my meditation.  Although I admit I haven’t made it a daily habit, when I do try, I find that gentle yoga poses makes it easier for me to quiet my monkey brain and focus on my breath. 

My challenge with meditation is a good example of how finding stillness is a process.  It should be an enjoyable search for activities that bring you peace.

Finding Kindness in Stillness

So how does finding stillness relate to kindness?  The obvious is that taking time for stillness in your life is a kindness to yourself.  It also can impact those around you.  A calm, peaceful you are more likely to be patient and kind to the people in your life. 

Slowing down and embracing quiet in your environment also heightens awareness of your surroundings.  Taking earbuds out while you walk around the neighborhood exposes you to sounds you otherwise wouldn’t hear.  Strolling instead of quickly walking to your destination allows you to look around instead of staring at the pavement so you don’t trip on a crack.  When you are actively listening and watching, you will inevitably notice more…perhaps others in need.

Just the other day, I was meandering along, walking my fur baby, Mila.  I normally listen to an audiobook, but I was trying to practice what I’m preaching.  So, when I walked by the shy, soft-spoken woman, I heard her quiet request for help to find the nearest subway station. 

finding stillness and kindness
Looking around on my walk afforded me the opportunity to notice acts of kindness: a water bowl for dogs to use and a stick placed in a hole as a signal to be careful.

A Few Helpful Hacks

Stillness is individual to each of us.  Here are a few hacks that may help you find what works best for you.

1. Spend less time on information input.

Try checking your email only two or three times a day instead of immediately responding.  Only watch or read the news once a day.  Limit your time on social media.  Decrease your notifications.  There are endless changes you can make that will help avoid information overload.  Use that extra time to look out the window or take a 10-minute walk.

2. Embrace boredom.

Remember when we were kids and would be totally bored?  Consider what you did when your parents told you “No more TV.  Go and play.”  I remember playing jacks and pottering around in the creek near my house.  Or I would sit underneath this huge weeping willow tree and just think.

3. Seize the small moments.

It can seem daunting to try and book in yet another 20–30-minute activity.  Start by just making use of the small moments available to you: the wait at the dentist office or the bus stop, the 10 minutes in between zoom calls, or the time in your car sitting in traffic.

4. Enjoy the silence or absence of words.

Try turning off the audiobook or podcast during your morning walk or commute.  If you don’t want silence, try some instrumental music. 

5. Get outside.

There are a multitude of benefits of the outdoors – even if you live in a city or the weather is miserable.  Try going for a walk but having no destination in mind. 

6. Google “quiet places near me.”

Living in NYC, it’s hard to find a quiet place.  I was pleased that when I did the google search above; it gave me new ideas of sanctuaries to explore. 

7. Try something new.

Do something out of your comfort zone.  Try a soundbath or new form of meditation, like the Loving Kindness Meditation.  Take up knitting or photography.  Or even simply try a different trail in your favorite park.

8.  Once you find it, make it routine.

It’s not easy to find stillness.  So, when you do find something that works for you, pay attention to the process.  Creating consistencies for your senses will cue your brain to calm more quickly. (Think Pavlov’s dogs.)  Sitting on the same park bench, having the same cup of tea, or smelling the same scented candle are all ways that may help trigger your brain to rest.

We’ve All Earned Stillness

Taking time to find stillness in your life is a way to be kind to yourself.  Consider setting the to-do list aside for a few moments every day.  Give your brain the needed rest and freedom.  You deserve it.  We all do.

“Just be quiet and think. It’ll make all the difference in the world.”
-Mr. Rogers


  • Jami says:

    Love this post! My stillness has always been a silent room at the library. I love being in total silence with almost no distractions. I go in and read and lately write. It’s my most favorite thing to do besides walking. Cheers to a peaceful year! xo

    • Patricia Makatsaria says:

      Deep reading is a skill these days. It’s a wonderful idea to do your reading and writing where distractions are forbidden!

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