Electric shock v. Sitting quietly

Annie DeighnaughAugust 7, 2014

Yup, the results are in. People, (more so for men) would rather give themselves an electric shock than just sit quietly doing nothing for 15 min. (One guy shocked himself 190 times!) Apparently being alone with one's thoughts is so frightening a proposition that people prefer physical pain to doing nothing. Are we so out of touch with ourselves and being in the now and are we so overwhelmed with electronic everything constantly intruding on our lives that we can't spend a few minutes alone enjoying solitude? Being at peace with ourselves? Relaxing into quiet and taking a mental vacation? It would seem we are becoming an ADD nation.

Article about the study

I found this amazing as my first response to the idea of being given time to sit quietly by myself for 15 min was, I could meditate!

If you are interested in trying meditation, Oprah & Deepak Chopra are starting another free 21-day meditation challenge on Monday. Every day they email you a link to a meditation...they are about 15 minutes long and include some guidance and some quiet meditation. This one's theme is Expanding Happiness. I promise you, it's nowhere near as painful as a self-administered electric shock.

Here is a link that might be useful: 21 day meditation

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I'm in total agreement with you. I can't imagine a day when I don't sit quietly and meditate. Been doing this for 55 years. There's nothing better than to have a fresh cuppa in the morn and sit in my sun porch, relaxed and quiet. I love it. For every four hours I spend with people, I need five to be alone. I took Deepak's classes from him when he was a young man living in Ma. and have kept up ever since. I recommended the online meditation you posted. I talked my granddaughter in to trying it the last time they ran it and now she's hooked. Namasta~~

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 9:21AM
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I wasn't a very good student the first time I tried the 21-day meditation but I'm willing to give it another try.

My favorite part was when he would say "I'll mind the time" because the expression itself and his voice were so charming.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 9:54AM
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I don't meditate per se, but I most definitely enjoy having time to sit and collect my thoughts, enjoy the quiet, etc. Personally, I find my day goes much better when I have/make time to do this.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 10:03AM
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cyn427 (zone 7)

I am sorry, but going all judgmental here: that is just plain ridiculous. What is wrong with people that they can't just sit quietly, think and/or relax their minds? My favorite part of the day is sitting outside with a cup of tea in the morning and staring into the woods, listening to the birdsong, and emptying my mind. Inside or out, I have to have some time for stillness every day.

Of course, they don't include any info on the number of subjects or whether it was a random sample, etc. I would be interested to find out more simply because I am curious.

Thanks for the link, Annie. I signed up for the 21 day meditation.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 11:07AM
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Being with your thoughts is frightening enough. It need not be driven "by electronics". I assume the fear existed long before electronics. Meditation may be a good thing, sitting still may be a good thing, but it needn't be driven by such judgements. Here's an alternate suggestion. Paul's monologue from Six Degrees of Separation.

"I believe the immagination is the passport that we create to help take us into the real world. I believe the immagination is meerly another phrase for what is most uniquely us. Jung says, 'The greatest sin is to be unconcious.' Holden says, 'What scares me most is the other guys face. It wouldn't be so bad if you both could be blindfolded.' Most of the time the faces that we face are not the other guys but our own faces. And it is the worst kind of yellowness to be so scared of yourself that you would put blindfolds on rather than deal with yourself. To face ourselves, that's the hard thing. The immagination, that's God's gift. To make the act of self examination, bearable."

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 11:31AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

rob, I suppose it need not be driven by electronics, but even in my youth, there were much fewer distractions of the mind available, no matter what the activity. TV was something that was watched only in the evening, and there was only one in the house, mail was something that came once in the afternoon unlike the ubiquitous email/texting today, and if we were working outside about the best distraction we had was an AM transistor radio. But mostly outside work...weeding, mowing, planting, leaf raking, etc...was done in silence or in conversation with other people. So like it or not, being alone with one's thoughts was a regular thing. Now, you can't even sit in an airport, a doctor's office or even pump gas without being assaulted by screens and noise. So I think the effect of that would be to make silence even more fearful as it is so much more unfamiliar.

cyn, looking on line, it looks like there were 11 studies done, I'm not sure how many participants in total, but they were across a wide range of ages. They thought it might have been the atmosphere or the location. So in one of the studies, they went to a church and asked people to participate by, any time they wanted in any place they wanted, to just sit and do nothing for 15 minutes. Many reported they couldn't do it, or cheated by checking their phone or whatever. So even in the comfort of their own home, they weren't more successful.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 12:11PM
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tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM

"Are we so out of touch with ourselves and being in the now and are we so overwhelmed with electronic everything constantly intruding on our lives that we can't spend a few minutes alone enjoying solitude?"

To me there is a lot going on in that question. It would absolutely depend on where I am. If I am at home, I can kick off my shoes, and stare out the window and sip my coffee and enjoy it. My expectations of place would be different say in a church though or some place other than my home.

While I absolutely embrace solitude (perhaps crave it), I generally still require some activity to help myself settle. During the winter it might be knitting and that is more still but in the summer, gardening is very active but still very quiet. I am afraid that sometimes I would be bouncing off the walls if I am just sitting. Honestly, sometimes just cleaning the house is what allows me to be in the now and meditate although for that I think I would prefer the electric shocks.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 2:01PM
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Fascinating! I would never choose the shocks . . .but that doesn't mean I meditate. TY for posting the link. I think I'll do the 21 day program! Maybe right after exercise, to get into a habit.

We just got back from a walk on a nature trail. I feel so at peace, and can just quietly "be" (not that I was today, since my 5 kids were with me). That, I could do all day. Even though we live near several such areas, the sad thing is, I am always worried about being in really wooded areas . . .so much crime and creepiness. We stay on short trails that are more popular. Not the same, but safer, at least.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 2:22PM
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Alternate suggestion :)

I posit that mankind has always had trouble sitting still and thinking. I too grew up with the same parameters as you. I think electronics just added a way to avoid thinking. Along with transistor radios (mine was black and had a white ear bud looking thing, with one dial that you moved ever so slowly as to tune it. But it was cool, it had a wriststrap and you could tie it to your bike handle). That is, avoidance came before electronics, but electronics make avoidance easier and so, we use them more often. I find it harder to sit than I used to. Too much to do! But even when it's done and the house is empty 'cept me, I still can't. My mind thinks about things I don't wanna think about. So on the tv goes, or up the book goes, or tablet. Diversions! It's just easier with something to do that is mindless. Some days I'm even afraid of my thoughts. I might have to make some changes to who I am. Gasp! ;)

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 2:48PM
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I must have quiet alone time to keep my sanity, but there have always been those who can't sit still or quiet their mind. My father is like that. I don't think it's a matter of our surroundings, being overwhelmed by electronics or being afraid of one's thoughts as much as it is our in-born personalities.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 3:15PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Interesting, Rob, cause and effect...the researchers who did the study suggested the same thing...that electronics just makes it easier for us to achieve the distractions we crave.

However, they are learning more and more about the plasticity of the brain, and how the more time we spend doing something, the greater the number of neural connections are made in the brain to support that activity. So it may be a vicious cycle...the more we distract, the better capable the brain is of handling distractions, the more distractions we need to fill the brain. Only by actively doing the opposite, calming the body, quieting the mind, avoiding distractions and centering on the now can we create new patterns of thinking and of behavior that allow us to be content with ourselves and our thoughts and not be afraid of silent solitude.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 3:16PM
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I'm not sure I'll ever reach content with myself, so I have no idea. I guess I could try meditation.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 3:53PM
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This thread reminds me of my MIL. She has to have "noise" and will have the tv on all waking hours. That would drive me absolutely bonkers! I would so prefer to sit for an hour in my backyard and absorb the sounds of nature rather than hear the tv. I'm not as good about the web, but when it's family time, etc. that's off too. I am not one to constantly check my phone either. I know how to unplug. While I am not one who can just sit for long periods doing nothing, I am not one who "craves" distraction. Hubby and I can work together in silence and still feel perfectly companionable. I don't have to have "noise" to complete my tasks or hobbies, although there are times I do prefer music to quiet. Then again, I can lose myself in my thoughts and surroundings even at times with the music going. I think I must not have a problem distancing myself. LOL

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 3:58PM
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I have no problem sitting quietly with my thoughts. I need to sit quietly with my thoughts, it's how I recharge.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 6:52PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

Sorry, but I don't have time to read all posts but I think everyone is different, or at least, at a different point in life.
So personally, I think it's better not to judge another without completely understanding their background and situation.
I went through this in a much much more minor way w/dh who did not grow up reading. Reading was considered "work" that must be done.
I grew up reading all the time, and consequently, was told all the time, "it's time to go to bed/go outside/clean/study/be friendly..." yet I read. (parents were big time readers). All the time. On beautiful sunny Saturdays. On holidays. While the Superbowl played...

So, to hear someone can't sit quietly, well, that's my opposite and so, it's not wrong, just different.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 7:04PM
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HH, I also signed up for the first 21-day program and I don't think I even did it once. I have had a stressful family situation going on for quite a while and "coincidentally" my health has been lousy for pretty much the whole summer. This is really unusual for me and I am starting to think that stress has affected my immune system and it's time to get serious about finding ways to deal with a stressor that is not going away anytime soon. So I'm all over this new meditation challenge. Also, regular massages and more exercise (if I can only feel healthy long enough to get into a regular routine again!).

So yes, although I would never choose the shock, I have an antsy disposition and need to find more opportunities to quiet my mind.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 10:47PM
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For someone with tinnitus, sitting in a quiet room can seem like torture. The electric shock would be a relief. It is a terrible and invisible disease.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 7:31AM
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ItâÂÂs interesting that the majority of the repliers here say that they love to just âÂÂbeâ for a few minutes a day. IâÂÂm one of them. The part that is interesting is that we have all came together from the decorating forumâ¦decorating is creative. Sometime creativeness is learned and sometimes one is born with it so there may be some variances on how long or how often a creative person sits, reflects or is comfortable just âÂÂbe-ingâÂÂ. I would be interested to know if there are artistic sorts in the study and how they fared. IâÂÂm thinking that it may come down to how we are all wired and although there will be some that fall in-between the cracks some people are more innately predisposed to sit and some are not.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 8:37AM
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Nature (and thus gardening) tends to appeal to those that enjoy solitude and their thoughts. Nothing is better to many than being out in the wilderness and hearing no sounds or seeing no sights of fellow men.

To broaden, I used to go to a cave when I was younger, which had a waterfall in the back of it. It was enjoyable to me, to crawl back there and turn off the lights and just sit there listening to the cacophony of the waterfall and absorb the peace. I took (at different times) two of my friends, and they literally freaked out...and couldn't stand it. I still don't understand ;0

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 8:42AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

As I mentioned before, with all we're learning about neural plasticity, we can retrain our brain to respond differently to emotional upsets and stress. But it does take time...that's why meditation is a practice.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 9:25AM
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I have no doubt meditation could help everyone with practice. I do think that how you are wired will make difference on the level of what you get out of it. It seems like brains can only be retrained to a point depending on the wiring. I think itâÂÂs all good though. Maybe meditation should be mandatory in prisons as every little bit could help.



BRAIN STUDY (brain type not mentioned)

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 10:58AM
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Wow. Look at that green (and to a lesser extent the blue) neural pathway in the schizophrenic's brain. Amazing. Makes me think, wrong turn! It's deep too. If I had to guess, I'd bet anything that's on the of the brain dealing with reasoning ability.

I wish my mind were as organized as the artist. Awe inspiring.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 11:28AM
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My mother had a little note by her computer that said " In case of an emergency be quiet. I'm a Quaker." Excellent motto to live by I've found.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 11:39AM
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