“Quieting after both joyful and upsetting emotions is the strongest predictor of lifelong mental health.”
– Chris Coursey, Transforming Fellowship: 19 Brain Skills That Build Joyful Community
What is quieting? In short, quieting is the ability to calm our minds and bodies after nervous system activation. As I will discuss, this skill is crucial for mental health and relationships. I have worked with teens through the years, teaching dance and facilitating teen ministry; during that time, I noticed many teens struggle with quieting themselves in a way that is beneficial. I have observed teens getting overwhelmed easily, shutting down, struggling with focus, and feeling uncomfortable being alone without distractions. More recently, I also found that many adults are frustrated by the lack of teens’ ability to quiet and feel lost about how to help teens get better at this necessary skill. Thus, I decided to learn more about quieting myself through my research leading to this compilation. In this three-part blog series, I discuss what quieting is (for everyone, including teens), why it is so important, what it bypasses youth, and how a lack of quieting is likely a large contributor to the negative trends in teen mental health. Finally, I will discuss what we can do as a community to help adolescents grow in the skill of quieting.
Ed Khouri (1), in Becoming a Face of Grace, discusses that quieting is a natural way for our brains to produce serotonin. Serotonin is one of the pivotal neurotransmitters that is essential to mental health contributing to mood regulation. Low levels of serotonin are linked to anxiety, depression, sleep issues, PTSD, OCD, phobias, and more mental health concerns. Serotonin helps us feel calm and peaceful. Learning and practicing various ways to quiet the mind and body give us a natural and sustainable way to increase our serotonin levels. We were designed to need and enjoy rest. Not only do we need to rest from distress and intense situations, but we also need to rest after experiencing high amounts of joy. This allows our brain and body to calm down, get refreshed, and regulate our emotions. As our mind and body calm down, we are able to be more aligned with our true selves instead of being controlled by negative thoughts or beliefs. Then we can be people who live in a place of peace and joy. This also improves relationships with the people around us because relational connection relies on our personal ability to transition from joy to quiet and back again.
According to Chris Coursey (2), many mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, behavioral disorders, personality disorders, addiction, phobias, and more can spring up when people are not properly using rest to calm the nervous system. Coursey also mentions how quieting can energize the nervous system when necessary. If people do not learn to quiet, they will often look to other activities to get the needed serotonin; however, these alternate activities may not be healthy sources of serotonin. People can become dependent on these activities or things to manage intense emotions. Coursey adds that people who don’t quiet themselves become overworked, burned out, lost in their devices, caught in addictions, and avoidant of calming themselves.
Quieting looks differently for each person; it’s most important that we find something that works for each of us. Quieting can look like grounding, sitting with a trusted friend in silence, meditation, prayer, journaling exercises, mindfulness practices, and more. Pseudo-quieting, or behaviors and actions we often do to disconnect when we need to quiet temporarily, may include scrolling on social media, binging YouTube or television, drinking or substance use, and other behaviors that substitute relationships (even self-relationship) for avoiding/numbing. Although these feel like they provide quiet, they only offer temporary benefits. True quieting will equip us to feel a sense of peace during stressful and turbulent situations and enable us to be our best selves in those situations.
In the next blog in this series, I will talk more specifically about teens, what we notice with them, and what happens when they do not quiet themselves. In the third and final article of the series, I will discuss ways to help teens learn to improve the skill of quieting. I am passionate about the concept of helping teens quiet themselves and bringing awareness to parents, family members as well as other community members who work with teens. There is a societal war working against teens learning this much needed skill, and those of us who understand how necessary the development of quieting is can lead the way in helping the teens in our lives learn how to quiet!
Khouri, Ed. Becoming a Face of Grace: Navigating Lasting Relationship with God and Others (p. 214). Illumify Media. Kindle Edition.
Coursey, Chris M. Transforming Fellowship: 19 Brain Skills That Build Joyful Community (p. 59). Kindle Edition.