A Short Intro to Tal Ben-Shahar:
Tal Ben-Shahar, the professor of Positive Psychology at Harvard University, and author of two best selling books, Perfect and Happier, is a pioneer of self-awareness. This educator, author, and philanthopist is exploding on the mainstream media with his outlandish proposal that people can actually achieve happiness; like it is not some sort of far fetched ideal we all strive for, but know that we will never reach.
From everything I’ve learned from watching his lectures online (FOR FREE), he highly recommends that you get in touch with what you really want, and learn to be grateful for your life and the daily “mundane” experiences you go through.
He says, “your goals are your means, but your experiences are your ends.”
To see a short clip of some of the buzz surrounding this man, please check out this video:
Why Avoid Silence?:
From Tal’s first lecture I picked up a trick for happiness that isn’t acknowledged in the usual “How to…live a happy life” manual. This trick is Silence.
In a world were we constantly bombarded each other and ourselves with sounds from televisions, radios, our portable mp3 players, phones, and other technology, the act of silence becomes equivalent to absence of comfort. In fact, when a conversation between two people reaches a silence, it is often referred to as “awkward.” Some people find it difficult to exist in a world absent of noise. Why is that?
Is it because when we are silent we are forced to reflect on our thoughts and emotions – the ones that we demote to internal static in exchange for a song on the radio? Are we merely giving in to our desires for distraction because we are a generation of ADD? Are we afraid that silence will lead us to boredom? To disconnection from the world?
Whatever your reason is for disliking silence, avoidance of it can only keep you from reaching your personal potential. Maybe, if you learn to see the beauty of silence, you may feel curious enough to explore how adding it into your life can transform the way you think and feel. Did you know that silence is good for your brain as well as your heart.
Silence Helps Your Brain:
Having time to reflect in silence after a learning task allows your brain to reinforce and better memorize the information you have just collected. There is a very small threshold of time after you had just taken a test or sat through a lecture where if you repeat in silence what you had just heard or saw, you will remember it better.
David Foster and Matthew Wilson, Psychology Professors at MIT, did a study on the learning patterns of rats going through a maze. It compares rats that had time to reflect on their accomplishments after finishing the maze and rats that had no time to think because they were thrown into the maze again.
While the results suggests that there certainly is some record of learning as [the maze experiment] is occurring, the actual learning, when they try to figure out which turn should I take and which should I turn away from comes after the fact.”
This means that the rats that had time to reflect on what they learned after completing a maze learned better and performed better the second time than the group of rats that had to repeat the maze right away.
This is a great tool to use in school to do better on exams. After every lecture, remember to sit in silence and reflect on what you just absorbed from the speaker. It is critical to reinforcing the information to make studying for finals much simpler.
It works the same way with dreams. Did you notice that you can never remember your dreams unless you reflect on them as soon as you wake up or write them down? If you woke up and raced out of bed to rush through your morning routine, there is not a chance that you remembered your dream. But if, after you woke up, you took the time to think about what you experienced in your dream, it will stay with you for a long time.
Silence Helps Your Heart:
Lastly, silence is good for growth. You cannot understand what you really want out of life if you don’t give yourself a chance to listen to your heart. Sitting in silence for a couple of minutes to examine what your body and mind is experiencing can be very beneficial to the connection your have with yourself.
If anyone ever asks you “What do you really want to do right now” or “What do you want to be?” but all your responses are “I don’t know,” well, sitting in silence for a few minutes a day can help make your answer more specific and true to your needs. You don’t have to know how to meditate to listen to your body. How can something as amazing as your hopes, dreams, and fears ever be so boring that you can’t spend five minutes discovering them?
If you’d like to learn how to meditate, check out this video: