Silence is Golden

In the song, ‘The Sound of Silence,’ there is a line about people talking without speaking and people hearing without listening. Silence can be a haunting sign of the struggle to communicate. But is it always such a terrible thing?

If you have been in a lift, up at 5 am or on a bad date, you will have experienced silence. It may be something you vaguely remember from your younger years. Or silence may be fleeting, appearing for a moment with a power enough to shock you, before being consumed. Perhaps between family life, work and the busy streets of Singapore, silence may have been lost altogether. And with it may have gone the chance to contemplate, to reflect and to listen. Which is perhaps why some people find themselves wandering into a counselling room.

We may be tempted as therapists to fill a silence when it descends. It is awkward between people and may encourage a great deal of anxiety in you too; perhaps someone has nothing to say, or seemingly doesn’t care. Maybe you have run out of words. It may feel like you are not there, or perhaps that they are not and you are on your own. These are powerful feelings which encourage speaking just to break the silence (even in words, it is fragile). It may be experienced as a loss of something, which may be too much for some – including Paul Simon!

But there may be a different experience too. If you consider that ‘…silence is complementary to words in general…’ (Sabbadini 2004, P.229), it could be easier to see a role for it, one which offers something rather than taking it away. Buddhism and Mindfulness both speak of the benefits of silence. Perhaps allowing for a ‘…silent space within…’ (Sabbadini 2004, P.231) may give you something to make of these moments. Silence may be an opportunity to consider someone or something else, whether they are there or not. It is a communication, encouraging attention, both in you and in others, in contrast with the perpetual noise of modern life. It could be a chance to digest – try talking and eating at the same time to get a clearer idea of this – or simply a chance to pause. It also offers hope, even expectation – think of a silence falling over a crowd at a cinema or a concert as the performance begins. It is therefore something that can be recognised and even used, rather than avoided.

You are perhaps reading this in silence; or you may have life going on in the background. This may indicate how it feels to you, a good starting point to consider its role in your life. So next time it all goes quiet, perhaps hold on for just a moment before you allow the noise to kick in. You never know what you might hear.  

Sabbadini, A. ‘Listening to Silence’, British Journal of Psychotherapy, 21 (2), pp.229-240
Simon, P & Garfunkel, A. ‘The Sound of Silence’, Columbia Records (Originally released as ‘The Sounds of Silence’, October 1964)

Written by:
Robert Leveson
Psychotherapist & Counsellor
SACAC Counselling

The Mindful Switch

In today’s hyperconnected, instantaneous, and constantly evolving world, where we are perennially bombarded with information, emotions, thoughts and judgments, it is our body, and most importantly our mind that bears the brunt. This stress and anxiety of daily life manifests, in physical and mental dimensions, through disrupted sleep cycles, poorer eating habits, lower self-esteem, and more fragile and distant relationships.

Mindfulness is an ancient practice that has gained increasing prominence in the last few years, as a tool to combat and counterbalance the stressors of today’s life. Mindfulness can be described as the ability to pay attention and increase awareness of the current moment, in a curious, open and non-judgmental manner. In doing so, by developing, an approach of mindfulness, one can experience their daily life without either getting too fixated, or too distanced from their immediate experiences.

Mindfulness has been shown to provide multiple benefits in brain functioning and activity, including growth in the prefrontal cortex, and shrinkage in the amygdala [1]. These two changes are especially important when considering their impact on the way we respond to and manage our daily distress. Growth in the prefrontal cortex increases one’s ability to focus and sustain attention, while shrinkage in the amygdala reduces the activation of the “fight-or-flight” fear response. In combination, this reduces symptoms commonly associated increased levels of anxiety and stress.

Mindfulness is all about bringing focus into your present moment. Unlike what is commonly believed, the only way to attain the benefits of mindfulness is not by carving out specific times or routines to practice mindfulness. Although that has shown to be very effective, mindfulness can also be incorporated as a part of daily life. Therefore, one can practice mindfulness just by starting to pay more attention to each of the activities they are performing, such as when they are eating, or taking a walk, or brushing their teeth, or on their commute to work. One needs to pay deeper attention to each of the activities they are doing, by connecting with one’s senses and taking “mini pauses” to absorb the current stimulus. One great way to focus on the moment, is to observe one’s breathing, which brings attention back to the self. There are also several app’s that are now available to help individuals start incorporating short mindful pauses in their daily hectic routines, which can be a great first step towards a more mindful life.  


Written by:
Sukriti Drabu
Psychologist & Counsellor

Taking It Slow

The other weekend, I woke with a particular feeling. I just needed to take it slow that day. And so, that is what I did. Instead of going for a run at my usual spot, I walked, slowly, breathing deeply with my steps. I was struck with how right it felt for what I needed in that moment. My slow walk set the pace for the day, and inspired further slow paced activities.

There is much that has been written on the fast pace of our lives these days. And naturally, we do not always have the opportunity to take it slow. However, it is worth considering how we might consciously try to find moments to slow things down. As written in Sarah Wilson’s book “First we make the beast beautiful: a new story about anxiety”, it has been suggested that a big part of modern society’s stress comes from having so much of our life occurring at a speed that our bodies are not aligned with. That is, that we are out of sync from how we were originally designed to live.

Wilson quotes research that shows that mindful breathing while walking appears to be particularly helpful to reduce anxiety, in quietening our thoughts and providing an outlet for stress hormones. It keeps us present. This might look something like breathing in for three steps, and out for four steps, focusing on drawing energy up from the ground through your feet to the top of your head as you breathe in, and pushing energy back through your body into the earth as you breathe out. Walking though, is not the only way we can slow ourselves down. We can cook things from scratch, we can do slow yoga, we can hand-write, we can build something with our hands. Or we can simply block out some unscheduled time. Think about treating it as an experiment, and observe what the process is like for you.

Written by:
Thea Longman
DClinPsych/MSc, BPsych (Hons)
Registered Clinical Psychologist
SACAC Counselling

Dropping the Struggle with Difficult Emotions

Allowing yourself to experience all emotions, whether pleasant or painful, can lead to greater psychological health, according to recent research conducted by the University of California, Berkeley, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Based on questionnaire and laboratory data, researchers found that people who typically resisted acknowledging their difficult emotions, or judged them harshly, reported more psychological stress than those who allowed themselves to experience difficult emotions.

This makes sense when we consider that emotional discomfort is a very normal human experience. Emotions such as sadness, anger and fear are not only common, but are also essential to our survival. They are like signals that send a message that something is important to us, or motivate us to act. Hence, trying to rid ourselves of these emotions not only takes up a lot of our time and energy, but in the long term is ultimately unsuccessful, as we are designed to have these emotions. In struggling with them, we end up magnifying our distress in experiencing both the emotion and the distress about having the emotion.

Allowing yourself to experience the discomfort, rather than struggling against it, is not about having to like or want the discomfort. Instead, it is about seeing the emotion for what it is and changing how we pay attention to it. For emotions do naturally pass, they build in intensity but then plateau and subside. We can use mindfulness processes to help us handle these emotional experiences.

As many people are probably now aware, there are a number of ways to engage in mindfulness processes, often coming down to individual preference. These include:

Noticing whatever you are feeling in the present moment. Observing sensations, their intensity, their location in the body, with curiosity rather than judgement. Identifying and labelling emotions.

Relating to your emotions with imagery, such as going up and down a wave in the ocean, floating leaves down a stream or even sushi passing you on a sushi train..

Noticing other sensations in the present moment, bringing your attention to what you can touch, see, hear, smell, taste, and what task you are doing.

Practicing kind self-talk, for example in reminding ourselves that it is normal and natural to have painful thoughts and feelings.


Ford, B., Lam, P., John, O. & Mauss, I. (2017). The Psychological Health Benefits of Accepting Negative Emotions and Thoughts: Laboratory, Diary, and Longitudinal Evidence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2017; DOI: 10.1037/pspp0000157


Written by:

Dr Thea Longman
Registered Clinical Psychologist                                                                    SACAC Counselling


Many of us struggle with stress and overwhelm from our extra busy, fully packed professional and personal lives. It is also often difficult for people who need it the most, to find the time and energy to do time-consuming self-help exercises. The following exercise is a concise and relatively easy way to include bite sized self-care and mindfulness amidst your daily hustle bustle. These are all simple activities, but when done consistently and consciously, can provide a welcome breath of relief and inner calm in navigating through a chaotic outer world.

The exercise is to include MINDFUL PAUSES in your day – not just at the beginning or end of your day, but at regular intervals through the day. You are free to determine the frequency of these pauses based on your schedule, but ensure that you put them in your calendar, set a reminder and as much as possible plan your tasks around it. Ideally, take a break for 10-20 minutes every 2 hours. The concentration span of the human brain is limited so if 2 hours seem too short, think again as by then your brain would already be fatigued and aching for a break.

During the mindful pause:

  • Stop – Stop what you are currently doing (physically and mentally), get up and get out of that space – out of your desk, out of the room – allow your mind and body to recognise that you are taking a break. Get some sunlight and fresh air if possible, if not simply go to a different area of your workspace.
  • Check in – How am I feeling, what am I thinking, how am I breathing? In that moment, instead of engaging in the thoughts or fighting your feelings, simply observe, accept and let them pass for the moment as you give yourself a time out.
  • Stretch – give your body some movement, take a short brisk walk if possible, notice and consciously relax any areas of tension in your body. A quick body scan with stretching and relaxing the main muscle groups will help.
  • Hydrate and provide nutrition that your body may need.
  • Breathe – bring your focus to your breath, practice long slow deep belly based breathing for a few minutes as you allow your mind and body to get centred.
  • Refocus – Choose what you are going to focus on and identify what you seek to accomplish in the next 2 hours and channel all your attention and energy into that specific task. Do a quick plan or visualization of how you will be utilizing the next two hours and begin work from a clear and calm state of being.
  • Repeat after 2 hours.

When you have a lot on your plate, it can be difficult to imagine taking out 10 precious minutes from your already crazy, stretched thin schedule. However, in all likelihood you will find yourself lighter, fresher and more productive at the end of this short break, enabling you to engage with the rest of your life with more energy and positivity.  Give it a try!

Written by:
Mahima Gupta

M.A., MSPS, CRT, C.Ht.
Registered Clinical Psychologist
SACAC Counselling

How to take a Moment for Yourself

During our daily life we can become so caught up in what we are doing or what we are supposed to be doing, that we can lose sight of the essence of who we really are. We can begin to define ourselves solely by our roles as employee, employer, husband, wife, mother, father, sister, brother, friend, job-seeker, student etc. and these roles can pre-occupy us. We can loose sight of the fact that beneath all of these various roles remains  a precious  and unique person.  An amazing truth is that for each of us  there never has been and  never will  be an exact replica!

Getting into the habit of taking a moment each day to acknowledge and appreciate our unique self, apart from our roles,  is an enrichiching and worthwhile experience.  It is a way for us  to develop and grow  our capacity for compassion towards ourselves and others. It helps us to reflect upon our unique value and this simple act of  self-reflection can actually enhance our performance in our many roles.

Whilst taking a moment for ourselves is to be recommended as a nurturing daily practice, it can be of particular benefit when we are experiencing great difficulties, conflict or stress in our  lives. When we feel upset about something that has or has not happened or when we`re being hard on ourselves because we`ve made a mistake, this simple practice of givng ourself permission to  take a moment, in the midst of our struggles, can be very supportive indeed. It is also beneficial in times of anxiety – before an interview or exam for example.

When we connect to our self in this simple way it can make us feel validated and stronger, almost as though we are our own best friend. We begin to  feel more regulated somehow as we create an experience of greater connection to ourself and others. It can slow down the negative thoughts that may  be racing around in our mind and provide some space for alternative more compassionate thoughts to enter.

You may be surprised to find that the practice of taking a moment needs to be focused initially on our physical selves.  This is because the mind and the body are inextricably linked – if one is stressed, the other is too. It is much easier to calm the mind when the body is relaxed,  as there is a constant feedback loop between the two and that`s why it needs to start with the body.

How to Take a Moment

It doesnt matter when or where, however it is best done sitting or standing.

Firstly do a  Body Scan – notice your body from head to toe – notice where you are holding tension/tightness in your muscles –  then consciously release that tension by dropping your shoulders, unclenching your hands and toes, relaxing  your face and jaw.

Then commence Abdominal Breathing – breathe in for the count of 4 through your nose and out for the count of 7 through your mouth – pushing your abdomen out on the out breath. This reduces the production of adrenaline, which is a speed – up hormone. Three or four of these breaths will do.

If you like you can also say a Mantra to yourself  – a  soothing statement   –  something like  “I`m ok and it`s ok to be ok”.

That`s all you have to do – so easy. The only difficult bit is giving yourself permission to  do  it daily.  Enjoy your moment!

Written By:
Dr Anita Corfe
CPsychol. DCPsych., BSc (Hons)
Reg. Psychol. PsSl., AFBPSs., EAP.
Counselling Psychologist & Integrative Psychotherapist
SACAC Counselling