Synopsis: Matt Finch and Coach Tana share many of the benefits of silence and solitude practices, how it has changed their lives, why they still do it on a regular basis, why it’s especially important for introverts and/or highly sensitive persons, and how to carve out a daily silence practice and do something that fits your style.
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Coach Tana: And create 15 to 20 minutes daily where you just disconnect from the world. So, I love doing this before everybody else wakes up, because then I don't have that feeling that, "Oh my gosh, I need to go be taking care of my kids." There're sometimes when I wake up after my kids, not very often, and they know that I need that quiet time.
Matt Finch: At home, I'll put on a little bit of journaling background music on the TV so there's a lot of different videos where maybe it's just a fireplace, or perhaps it's a campfire overlooking the ocean on a cliff with the sun setting. There're so many awesome videos. I'll put the volume on very low so you can just barely hear it. It might be the sound of rain or the sound of crashing waves, or maybe there's a little tiny bit of piano music and I'll journal and I'll sit there and I'll just write. That for me, counts as silence time too.
Announcer: Thanks for tuning in to the Elevation Recovery podcast. Your hub for addiction recovery strategies hosted by Chris Scott and Matt Finch.
Matt Finch: Hey, welcome to episode 178. I'm your host, Matt Finch and I'm here with my cohost, Coach Tana. Coach Tana, I haven't talked to you since before y'all in Texas had, I think you were just calling it, Snovid. You guys had that. How was all that?
Coach Tana: Yes, we did just have Snovid and, by the way, I am so happy to be able to get to do this podcast and catch up with you again, Matt. So we survived. My family, we survived Snovid. It was absolutely crazy because we don't get anything like that here, where it was literally just a couple of inches of snow, but it shut down the entire state.
Coach Tana: So, I know for my family, we didn't have power for 31 hours, which is insane. We were very blessed, because we did not have it as bad as a lot of people who lost power and water, and then when power came back on and water came back on, their pipes burst. It was a very interesting week, you know, just to top off what we've been going through with COVID here in the United States. But we survived and I'm glad we're here.
Coach Tana: It's interesting because we'll be talking about noise pollution and sound and quiet time on this podcast. Because when our power went out, which was at 2:00 in the morning, I actually had my kids in the bedroom with me. So anytime we have any kind of threatening weather coming, I usually have the kids bunk out in my room. They think it's fun and for me, I feel safer with them in there.
Coach Tana: So, we're in there and all of a sudden at 2:00 in the morning, both my son and I, we wake up because it is dead silent. I normally have my sound machine, the AC or the heater is usually going, so you just don't realize how much we thrive on that sound. I guess not thrive, thrive isn't the right word. But how much we rely on noise around us until it's absolutely gone.
Coach Tana: So I'm laying in bed and it's extremely quiet, but you can hear the rustling of the frozen leaves outside. So it sounds a little eerie. And I remember, my son and I, we got up and we went and looked out the window and it was snowing, which that was my son's birthday. I had wanted to take him to go see snow for his birthday actually, but I was still kind of struggling with fatigue and everything from just having coronavirus in January, that we didn't go. So we were so excited, "Jason, you got snow on your birthday!"
Coach Tana: We went back to sleep, but unfortunately, I keep it around 67 degrees at night in the house which is great for sleep, but when the power goes out and it's freezing outside, it got down to about 40 degrees in our house. So we really couldn't enjoy the snow because I didn't want them to go out into it and then come back in and just never warm up. But that really made me realize how much we rely on sound around us. I'm sure it totally would have been peaceful if I wasn't totally dependent on the noise around me.
Matt Finch: That reminds me slightly of when I moved from San Diego, California, and a very busy neighborhood, a very crowded beach community that has only gotten more and more crowded with people that move here and then also people coming to visit just because it's paradise here. It's a total tourist destination. So, that makes it noisy as well as we're right next to the San Diego airport, Lindbergh Field. So, most of my life, I've lived under a direct flight path of the airplanes. It's very, very loud.
Matt Finch: So when I moved to Upstate New York, to Norwich, New York, smack dab in the middle of, right in central New York, when I was, I think 26, maybe close to 27. So I went from this really busy, loud place with airplanes and ambulances and firetrucks and lots of cars and people and animals and the hustle and bustle to this small town, that by my estimation and I'm horrible at math, it seemed like there might've been around a million or 10 million trees for every one human being. I might be way off. There might even be way more trees.
Matt Finch: So I remember, not the first night, because when I first got there I was on a bender. I don't want to talk about that on this episode, that's not appropriate. But once I came off the bender and was like, "Okay, I better do things differently here in New York," which I did for a while, but then it went south. So I remember going to sleep and just hanging out at nighttime, total dead silence at my apartment. The windows were shut. It was probably mid-November at that point. No sounds at all. There was no cars that I could hear coming down the road. No airplanes coming over. No people. Total silence and I just loved that.
Matt Finch: I lived there for four years and when I moved back from that small town in Upstate New York in the country, basically, when I moved back to this very busy city beach town, tourist town, Tana, I had serious culture shock. It was noise pollution times a million. And it was even crossing the street. When I was on foot, driving in the town, even walking was stressful for me until I kind of recalibrated to this level of people and this much noise.
Coach Tana: Yeah. Well, it's interesting because the World Health Organization has actually ranked noise pollution second to air pollution in terms of effecting our health and well-being and that includes diabetes, tinnitus, and risk of heart disease. I don't think we realize what noise does and now I'm even considering, or I'm thinking about, like when I put my headphones in I'm listening to my music and I find myself kind of getting addicted to that. Usually I keep everything quiet throughout the day, but I've noticed if I've been listening to a lot of music or whatever, then I start to kind of like, "Oh my gosh, I need something. I need some noise, whatever." So I have to get back to the basics and turn everything off and relieve that stress response, which noise does trigger the stress response in our amygdala actually, releasing cortisol into our body. So, it's interesting that the more you feel that, the more you feel you need to have the noise, so.
Matt Finch: When I first got my first pair and only pair of AirPods from my older brother for Christmas a few years ago, maybe four years ago-
Coach Tana: First and only, huh?
Matt Finch: Yeah, first and only. Well, I went through a phase where I was definitely, I had my earbuds in almost non-stop throughout the day. Whether I was listening to music or, it was usually audio books, it was usually audibles. But it could have been podcasts, YouTube videos, music, whatever, usually audibles, but always in my ears. You don't get any time if you're always listening to something, whether it's the TV in the background or headphones or earbuds, whether it's music, audibles or a combination of a bunch of things. Then, of course, that stuff's fun stuff. But if it's all day, like I was doing. It didn't give me any time for self-reflection. It didn't give me any time to really be mindful or to be just fully immersed in the present moment.
Matt Finch: But there's a lot of benefits to it too. I mean, music's an antidepressant and then learning things. I love learning so much. So, it was helping me a lot, but I found, at least for myself, that even years and years after quitting substance addictions, then I still had that kind of extremist aspect of myself where if I found something that I really liked well I would often do it too much. No moderation, I was all or nothing. I did it with exercise. I did it with food. I did it with-
Coach Tana: [inaudible 00:10:21]. There's no middle with us.
Matt Finch: Yeah. Well, there can be. I finally found a middle road, but it took me, I'd say at least seven and a half, maybe eight years. I'm wondering right now if it's just because it's a good little kind of smooth phase, or if I actually am done for good with all the extremes. I don't want to jinx it. I'm definitely knocking on wood. But-
Coach Tana: [inaudible 00:10:49] extreme for good. That's what I have learned, is using my extreme nature for good. Because obviously God made me this way for a reason. So instead of putting it into unhealthy, negative, bad habits, I try to change that and be on fire for Jesus. Things like that because sometimes we just need to be extreme.
Matt Finch: Yeah. Well, extreme with love. Extreme with our gratitude. Extreme with our affection for our family and friends and [inaudible 00:11:28]. Extreme for our resolve and purpose and meaning in life and wanting to do that.
Matt Finch: You and I, Chris, we're all fortunate that we get to talk to each other on a regular basis about these types of things. I know for a fact that there's a lot of people that are hiding their drinking or hiding their drug use or hiding both drinking and drug use from some people. They're in the closet with it still. The stigma, they're worried that they will feel more guilt and more shame if they come out of the closet and they'll be judged and that they won't be good enough or that they won't be loved.
Matt Finch: So without anyone to talk to about this stuff, people are holding it in unless they're journaling about it or seeing a therapist. But so many people are holding it all in and being addicted to noise or having noise on a lot, whether it's TV, headphones, music. Just always having something that you're doing, or something that you're watching, or listening to, to avoid thinking about your own situation. It's a great way for distraction and I think, at least in the US, the amount of distraction that US adults and children are facing today is so much greater than anything we've ever faced before.
Coach Tana: Yeah, it really is. I don't know if you've found this Matt, but I know with my clients, I usually ask them in the beginning stages of recovery, part of the biological pillar is to create 15 to 20 minutes daily where you just disconnect from the world. So, I love doing this before everybody else wakes up because then I don't have that feeling that, "Oh my gosh, I need to go be taking care of my kids." There're sometimes when I wake up after my kids, not very often, and they know that I need that quiet time, but it's not the same because I feel guilty. So I have to do it before they wake up.
Coach Tana: But trying to find it, so like early in the morning, waking up a little bit earlier. Or if you're a night owl, doing it at night after everybody goes to bed. It is interesting to hear that just 15 to 20 minutes, that's all I ask. Very rarely do I come across somebody who says, "Oh, I can do that." That's probably one of the hardest things for my clients to do, is to make that 15 to 20 minutes of time for shutting off the world and having that quiet time. Because in that, that's when we do get to cut off the noise and stop the distractions and that's where I find the most peace. Is in the quiet time.
Matt Finch: Yeah. It doesn't even have to be dead silence. It can even be very quiet. So, for example, one of the ways that I tap into quiet time, well, my favorite way, is barefoot walks at the beach and something that I did the last few times I went, and I haven't been in a week because it's been so cold here, but some of the last few times I went, I was closing my eyes while I was walking. So, not only did I not have earbuds in, I didn't even have my phone on me, no shoes on. So I'm feeling the sand, feeling the wind, feeling the breeze, but when I would close my eyes for 10, 15 seconds at a time and be walking, that felt really good. It gives your eyes a break from having to process all the visual sensory stimuli and it also helped me to become more in tune with what the feelings that I was feeling. Also, with the smells I was smelling, since I wasn't looking with my eyes, my other senses of feeling and hearing and touch and everything and scent were all heightened.
Matt Finch: But at home, I'll put on a little bit of journaling background music on the TV. So there's a lot of different videos where maybe it's just a fireplace or perhaps it's a campfire overlooking the ocean on a cliff with the sun setting. There's so many awesome videos. And I'll put the volume on very low so you can just barely hear it. And it might be the sound of rain or the sound of crashing waves, or maybe there's a little tiny bit of piano music and I'll journal and I'll sit there and I'll just write. That, for me, counts as silence time too. Yeah, it's not 100% dead silent, but it's so quiet. And there's no one talking around me, I'm by myself.
Matt Finch: So really, whatever works for people. So some people can't do it at their homes just because they're so triggered to do stuff there, "Well, let me pull out my phone. Let me get on my iPad. Let me go on my computer. Let me..."
Coach Tana: [crosstalk 00:16:42] in the corner.
Matt Finch: Yeah, yeah. So it can help, just to go out for a walk and go for a walk. Don't bring your phone. Just go. This is a good one for people-
Coach Tana: Leave the phone at home.
Matt Finch: Yeah. Go for a walk around the block without your phone. Do that every day. Then that's a good way to start getting into the habit of silence.
Coach Tana: Yes. And if you're walking on the same beach as Matt, he might run into you because his eyes are closed.
Matt Finch: Oh yeah. I almost ran into a dog actually, not a human [crosstalk 00:17:11].
Coach Tana: The dog probably would've loved that. If you're going to run into somebody, you'll want to run into a dog because they probably want to be ran into and petted too.
Coach Tana: So yeah, no. I guess sometimes we confuse peace with happiness too and I love what you said about how your quiet time differs. You go out on the beach and go walking barefoot, or you go home and you journal and you have the fireplace going on behind you on the screen. Really that's it. Everybody can have their own form of quiet time. But it is so important to get it, because that's where you find the most peace.
Coach Tana: And in a world around us that feels like it's in chaos, we need that peace. That's the difference between peace and happiness. Because happiness can be superficial, right? Like when I go on vacation or when I get a promotion, then I'll be happy. But peace is something different. It's more about being mindful and getting in touch. For me, getting in touch with God and knowing that he has a good plan for my life. It's just a form of just getting in touch with being alive and trusting that things will work out, having an awareness.
Coach Tana: So, I think, we kind of confuse the two, like, "Well, it's okay. I'm going to get my happiness later when I numb my feelings with alcohol or when I go on this vacation I'm going to be happy. But for right now, I just have to work all day and take care of my responsibilities and then I'll find peace in that happiness." But peace is really having that internal sense of awareness that everything is going to be okay, no matter what's going on around you. So it doesn't rely on outside circumstances except for what's going on within.
Matt Finch: Hmm. Some tranquility, serenity combined with faith and optimism. That's what optimism is. It's people that are optimistic, "Yeah, things may be difficult right now, but it's not going to be permanent. Things will get better." And that's the stark opposite of a pessimist, "Oh, things suck now and it's just going to get worse." Or, "Tomorrow's going to be the same stuff, bigger pile."
Coach Tana: Overgeneralizing. It's always going to be this way. It's always going to suck.
Matt Finch: Yeah, and I used to be like that too. I was a pessimist. I was negative. And even at one point, this is years after substance addiction, when I was getting into overworking as a dopamine booster and a form of significance, I would just work, work, work, work, work, work, worker. "Okay. When I make this happen, then I can be happy. When I moved to this place, then I'll be happy." I was chasing happiness and feeling okay with myself through achieving and I just chased that. I realized at some point, after a few years of doing it, maybe two and a half or three years, I don't think it was too long, definitely longer than it needed to go on, but eventually I just realized, I was like, "This is exhausting. I don't need to be happy all day, every day, but I at least want to be content." I wanted some tranquility. I wanted to... And so it took a lot of shifts, big decisions, ending certain relationships, moving certain places.
Matt Finch: Lots of big decisions to be able to reshift your life and get it to a place where you're actually having that inner peace. That's the most important thing to me, Tana, is that feeling of inner tranquility and peace. Faith that things are going to work out and a feeling of contentment, just overall contentment with life, curiosity. I find that that's a much better way than, at least for myself, than chasing happiness through external things like, "Oh, once I get this, I'll be happier. Once I..." It's just so ridiculous.
Coach Tana: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And it's so easy nowadays too, because everybody wants to have bigger and better homes and bigger and better cars. The fancier cars and there's always a new iPhone coming out. I was listening to a comedian the other day, Ronnie Ching, I think. I don't know how to say his last name, but I like watching comedians because I like to laugh. And he was just talking about how we need more. We need more of everything we need Amazon now. That's so true.
Coach Tana: We always are constantly going, going after the next big thing. We want everything now and we just need to take some time and cool off and realize that there's more to this world than material items and getting things right away. That there's a bigger purpose and when we do that and we realize that we were here for so much more than just accumulating wealth and material things and working our way up the corporate ladder that we have a bigger purpose and meaning.
Coach Tana: Gosh, it takes the stress away from our lives so much more because we're not fighting all the time. We're able to say, "Okay, as long as I am doing what I am supposed to be doing every day for others," then that's gratitude.
Matt Finch: Ah yes, laughter therapy. I have to do that daily. Before I actually got on this podcast with you I was with my girlfriend and our little birdie and we were watching funny bird videos on The Dodo. Dodo YouTube channel it's got, I think, around nine million subscribers. Just a little-
Coach Tana: [crosstalk 00:23:19] with you.
Matt Finch: Yeah, yeah. She'll sit on me and she'll watch. She likes certain things and doesn't like certain things. We watch a lot of stand-up comedy and prank videos and bad lipreading video songs, and we'll dance around like just being goofy and silly and playful.
Matt Finch: I used to be so serious after I quit drugs and alcohol. I became serious as a heart attack. I was no fun. I was not playful. It feels really good to be silly again and it took me a while to get back into it because I was always like this. Naturally, I'm a silly, dorky person, but drugs and alcohol, that made me a shell of a man. Then when I was rebuilding a new character identity in biochemistry, I was, just didn't have too much life skills at things regarding responsibility and growth. I did have a lot of life skills at having fun, pleasure,-
Coach Tana: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Matt Finch: ... despite all the negative consequences.
Coach Tana: Yeah. Well, look at you now. You're doing so many great things and you're doing great work and that's really cool. So, but talking about the quiet time and the noise around us and just realizing if we can take that time to shut off. I talked to so many people and a lot of them... Well, what I've noticed too, with people with addiction, alcohol addiction, is these are people who maybe are broken, but usually they're taking care of other people. They spend all their time working and taking care of other people. I find that so interesting. They're the most caring people ever.
Coach Tana: Whenever I tell them, "Take some time for you." That's a foreign language. But once they do and they start to realize, "Okay, I need to do this. And it's okay if I spend 20 minutes on myself." Because you're doing it anyways with alcohol, right? We just feel like with alcohol, we can do two things at once. I used to think, "Oh, I can read my kids a book while I'm drinking wine. How wonderful is this?" No, it wasn't. But when they realize, and they finally give in, because they're tired of me telling them and they go and they do the quiet time. Every single time I hear, "Man, that changes my life." Mm-hmm (affirmative). Peace, it is an invaluable, scarce commodity. We have to find it.
Matt Finch: And it becomes especially even more important for people that have sensory processing sensitivity. We've talked about that. I can't remember the episode number, but if someone wants to learn about that. It is, I'll put it in the show notes, I think it's called, A Guide to Recovery for Empaths. It's about the highly sensitive person, which is 20% of human beings and animals have a trait called sensory processing sensitivity, biologically from birth.
Matt Finch: So it just means that sensory stimuli, such as noises, sights, smells, all that thing, it's deeper cognitive processing speeds. So, people with SPS or highly sensitive people, should be extra cautious when it comes to noise, pollution, noisy, too bright environments and also they should be especially diligent about their adding silence into their self care. And even if it's not total dead silence, just quiet time in the house, out of the house. I like to switch it up because I thrive on novelty.
Matt Finch: I mean, all humans do and that boosts dopamine and everything, but I intentionally plan in novelty into my weekly schedule. I'm like, "Okay, if I look at my schedule," and it's pretty much the same thing that I always do. It's like, "Okay, podcasts and coaching calls, make a video, this, that, and the other-"
Coach Tana: Can you explain what novelty is?
Matt Finch: Yeah. Novelty, so it's things that we're not used to. So, for instance, I did a podcast episode with Briana for the first time. I hadn't talked to her or anything. And that was a novel experience for both her and I since we had never talked to each other and we did an episode without ever meeting. She knows some stuff about addiction. I know some stuff about addiction. And we had a topic and a conversation. So it was a very novel conversation, whereas every conversation I have with you and Chris is novel as well because it's a new topic. We talk about some new things.
Coach Tana: Who knows what we're going to say?
Matt Finch: Yeah. When I was a counselor at a treatment program, sometimes people's counselor would be sick or their counselor would get fired or quit or switch facilities. And oftentimes I'd get people transferred onto my caseload. So, what would happen was they would just love the session so much. "Oh, you're so great. My old counselor..." And they just talk bad stuff. But, part of it might've been that they liked me as a counselor, but probably a much bigger part of it was the fact that they had been seeing their other counselor for how many months or years for some people? And so the law of familiarity, you take for granted what you're around all the time and so I was very novel. I was like this totally brand new counselor. I was young, tattooed up, had done opioids myself and it was an opioid treatment program. I was young and cool and had good rapport with the people and had lots of compassion.
Matt Finch: But that was a big part of it. It was just, they'd have a session with a totally new counselor so it was a very novel experience leaving them with this feeling like I was just an amazing therapeutic counselor, when really it was just novel. They had never met me before. I had many different things to say than their previous counselor. So it was just different.
Matt Finch: So it's variety basically. And that really helps our brain too, if we're intentionally learning about novel things, novel ideas, novel thoughts, and doing... I really love the novel experiences, experiential novelty in healthy ways. Before I would do it in unhealthy maladaptive ways. So, "Hey, I've never tried Vicodin before. My friend just offered me one. Let's try that out." That was a novel experience, my first Vicodin. Oh my gosh.
Matt Finch: But yeah, that's basically what novelty is and so I try to intentionally put that in because if we're just doing the same thing, day in, day out. Eating the same things. Thinking the same things. Believing the same things. Being around the same people, being around the same places, doing the same habits, that prevents brains from growing as much as they can.
Matt Finch: [crosstalk 00:30:45]. Yeah, so intentional. And so, once the weather starts getting warm again, the way I'm going to start adding more novelty into my workouts, because I started going back at the YMCA up the street. They opened up all of the outside and they made some additions and now the place is pretty good. But once it gets warmer here, which it should probably in a few weeks. I'm going to start going down, and I know I said this on a podcast a few months ago that I told Chris I was going to start ocean swimming. But man, it was just so... I thought for some reason that there'd be more warm, really warm sunny days, and the water has just been freezing. So I am going to do it. It's just taking longer.
Matt Finch: It's going to be like a walk along the beach, followed by a sprint. Followed by inclined push-ups on the beach fire pits. Followed by another sprint. Followed by swimming out in the ocean all the way to the buoy, which is pretty far out there. A couple hundred yards, I think. And then swim all the way back in and that's going to be my workout for the spring and summer.
Matt Finch: One of them, just to add variety in there, that novelty is so important for me. Otherwise, I just get bored. If I'm doing the same thing, day in, day out in life. It's just like, "Man, this is boring." So I intentionally plan that stuff in, positive novelty, intentional planning. I guess. I don't know what to call it.
Coach Tana: Well, you don't want to get complacent. That's a big thing in life, is we tend to get complacent and that's when we develop bad habits. Even if it isn't as extreme as you and I, which I've often wondered, "Why couldn't I just have a compulsive shopping addiction? Why did I have to have the addictions that I did? Why were mine so extreme?" But I guess it doesn't really matter because when you're stuck in those addictions, they suck no matter how extreme. Because they're all extreme to whoever has it. But when we become complacent in our daily life, it's just like, "Eh, whatever, I'll just eat too much." Or, "I'll just spend too much money. Who cares, tomorrow's going to be the same thing." But when we have those novel experiences, it really makes life more enjoyable.
Coach Tana: It doesn't even have to just be like exciting things to do, but it could be volunteering, things like that, getting into the community. I know for sure that I am definitely not one who I can do the same thing over and over again. I don't like eating the same foods over and over again. Which is probably why my bodybuilding coach fired me, because I didn't stick to his plan. He still makes fun of me for that. So, I don't like to be told what to do, but.
Coach Tana: Anyways, I really love talking with you, Matt. I hope that what people gather from this is to think about the noise that's around them. And sound is, I guess it's measured in decibels, and they say anything over 85 decibels affects our hearing over time. I think leaves rustling is 30 decibels and a normal conversation is 60 decibels. So when you think about that, maybe it's time to just be quiet for a little bit. Like I tell my son,-
Matt Finch: What? What'd you say, Tana? What'd you say there?
Coach Tana: ... I tell Jason, my son, I tell him, "You don't have to fill every second with words." My kids think they have to talk all the time. I always have to tell them, "Let's be quiet a little bit." Or if you're watching the news and they're yelling at each other, maybe turn it off. You don't need that crap in your mind and then get 15 to 20 minutes of quiet time. If you can find yourself on Netflix or social media, you can find yourself some quiet time.
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