Study finds a peaceful interlude refreshes
 by Molly Belmont

ALBANY, New York.  September 9, 2008 (The Times Union)

If you’re like most people, your day is so packed with obligations you don’t have time to breathe, let alone think. The computer, TV, and even radio only add to the confusion, overloading you with information, and making you feel worse, not better.

“We’re in a society that is filled with noise and stimulation, and the body and mind get stressed by that,” said Beth Netter, M.D. Netter is a holistic doctor with the Center for Integrative Health and Healing in Delmar. She said over-stimulation causes stress, which is a major factor in a number of illnesses, including heart disease, acid reflux and depression.

“If the mind has stress, then the body has stress. It’s all connected,” said Netter.

When people are run ragged by duties and distractions, they can’t think clearly or make good decisions, said Leonard Perlmutter, founder and director of the American Meditation Institute. Perlmutter likened this stressful lifestyle to a musical composition: “Without the space between the musical notes of the composition, all there would be would be noise.” People have to create a quiet space to reconnect with themselves, otherwise the noise will overwhelm them, said Perlmutter.

Intel researchers call this inability to stop and think infomania — and they have come up with an antidote, too. It’s called quiet time.

According to the Intel study, “Endless distractions and the stress of information overload combine to perceptibly degrade the mental acuity of knowledge workers.” When people are constantly confronted by e-mail and other stimuli, and required to change tasks hundreds of times in the course of a day, they are less capable of thinking and solving problems, the study concludes.

To combat this problem, Intel instituted a weekly quiet time at two of its plants. During this time, workers are encouraged to turn off their instant messaging, stop answering the phone, and focus instead on projects that require deeper concentration. Seven months into this pilot project, Intel workers reported that they felt more effective, and 71% recommend that the company extend the pilot to other groups.

Quiet intervals are essential for maintaining health and healing, Netter said. She encourages her patients to take a time-out, when they turn off the outside world and tune into their inner wisdom. During these time-outs, Netter advises clients to step away from the task at hand, close their eyes, turn off their cellphone or computer, and spend a minute or so focusing on their breathing.

“The more people are able to move into that quiet, and have that wisdom … the more they are able to make healthy decisions — healthifying decisions, with everything,” Netter said.

Here are some ideas for making a quiet time for yourself:

Sit quietly and bring your attention to the bridge between your nostrils. Observe this space as you breath in and out. Do this for 60 seconds.

Stand quietly with your eyes closed and focus on your breathing. Concentrate on breathing with your belly, bringing breath from your toes to the top of your head. As you exhale, expel the breath from your head to your toes, so that you are creating a circle with your breath. Do this for a minute.

Take a brisk 15-to-20-minute walk. Swing your arms back and forth and get a good pace going. As you walk, think about a word or phrase you find calming. Repeat this phrase, or mantra, in your head as you walk.