- Marie Belzile-Davidson, MS, RDN, LD
The Power of Stillness
"We have forgotten what rocks and plants still know - we have forgotten how to be - to be still - to be ourselves - to be where life is here and now." - Ekhart Tolle
When is the last moment you took time to be completely still? Not sitting in front of the television "turning your brain off," not actively ignoring what may be stressful around you, and not sleeping. I am talking about truly being still, consciously - sitting or standing, no sound, no task, no agenda, just letting your mind and body be in the space you are in.
Being still may seem so actionless but can be so powerful.
True stillness not only helps us shift from our sympathetic nervous system ("fight or flight" mode) into our parasympathetic nervous system ("rest and digest" mode), but it can also open the door for several other positive shifts:
It can allow us to be better in tune with what our body is telling us. Our bodies send
signals to us countless times throughout the day. They are excellent at telling us
what we need, but we cannot always "hear" what our bodies are saying amidst
the commotion of daily life. Stillness can help you better understand what you may truly need.
Taking time to be still can also allow us to recognize how we truly feel. When you are asked how you feel or how you are doing, how often do you choose a word other than "fine," "well," "busy," "stressed," or "ok?" That is not a very wide range of feelings. In fact, some of these words do not indicate a feeling at all. You may not want to reveal your true emotions to someone you do not know well that has just asked you that question. That may be true, but if you regularly answer, "fine" when asked how you are doing, it is wise to check in with yourself and ask the question "do I truly know how I feel?" We may have too much going on to actually tap into our emotions or we may intentionally push them aside because we "have" to get through a few things. Stillness can allow those emotions to come through, help us understand what state we are truly in, and work through it. Suppressing emotions is not an effective long-term strategy - learning to acknowledge, name, and properly deal with our emotions is beneficial and allows us to be more self-aware human beings.
Stillness can also help us check in with our breathing. Have you ever paused and realized you have been taking shallow breaths all day? We need oxygen to survive and if we are constantly taking shallow breaths, we are not giving our bodies the oxygen they need to function optimally. We breathe without having to think about it but that does not mean we are breathing in an ideal way.
Taking time to be still can also open your mind to see what abundance you truly live in. It can be all too easy to see what we do not have or what we want. We are bombarded with advertising across multiple platforms. Being still can help you see what you have around you and feel joy and appreciation for what is already in your life.
These are just a small sampling of the nearly endless positive things that stillness can bring to our lives. Being still is not lazy, it is not a waste of time, and it is not "woo woo." It is a vital part of health and happiness.
What does stillness have to do with nutrition? If you are in "fight or flight" mode, your body is not concerned about properly digesting food and getting all the nutrients you need out of your meals. Pausing and allowing your body to get into "rest and digest" mode improves digestion and overall gut health. That is probably the answer you expected though. However, the connection runs deeper than that:
Nutrition is not solely about food. We do not eat in a silo. All the various systems in our bodies are interconnected and impact one another. "Hearing" the signals from our bodies, being more in tune with our emotions, taking full breaths, and recognizing the joy and abundance around us all impact our health. They can influence our weight, risk of disease, inflammation, how we think about food, what we make time for (cooking vs. eating out), and much more. Taking the time to just be, to find stillness, is one important piece of the nutrition puzzle.
When will you take time to pause today? Why not right now?