At some point in our lives, we have all felt the value of silence. Silence is comforting, calming, and healing. It inspires us and nourishes the mind, body, and soul. Yet, in our society, the craziness of the noisy world is stifling our creativity and our inner connection and hindering our ability to recover. Science shows that silence may be just what we need to regenerate our exhausted brains and bodies.
Studies show that noise has a powerful physical effect on our brains, causing elevated levels of stress hormones. Sound travels to the brain as electrical signals through the ear. Even when we sleep, these sound waves cause the body to react and activate the amygdala, the part of the brain associated with memory, emotion, and the feeling of danger, which releases stress hormones. Therefore, living in a noisy environment causes us to experience extremely high levels of these harmful hormones.
Many people need to fill the void left by silence with music, a television in the background, or any noise that breaks the monotony. They think it helps them feel some company. For them, silence is synonymous with loneliness. Thus, it becomes disturbing and even frightening.
The damage of noise
Noise is linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, and sleep loss. We have all experienced the detrimental effects of noise pollution. Excessive noise can take a heavy toll on the physical senses, and more and more people today identify as highly sensitive and unable to function in noisy, chaotic environments. We are finding out now that noise hurts and that silence heals.
Noise is a mixture of sounds of various frequencies that is annoying to the individual and is currently considered an “invisible” pollutant worldwide. This is especially true for neighborhoods in urban areas, where the number of vehicles and the desperation to move faster in traffic play an important role in noise emissions. A recent study in Sweden has determined that even at low levels, the generation of vehicular noise creates discomfort, disturbs sleep, and potentially causes insomnia, especially in more populated cities or those who live in areas with a more significant influx of people.
The effects of silence
Doctor Luciano Bernardi studied the physiological effects of noise and music in 2006, making a surprising discovery. When subjects in his study were exposed to random stretches of silence between noise and music, they experienced a powerful effect. The two-minute breaks were much more relaxing for the brain than soothing music or even the most extended silence before the experiment began.
Many of us who teach meditation can attest to this and advise people to take frequent meditative breaks throughout the day. Silence is much more than a lack of information. The brain recognizes silence and responds to it positively.
Benefits for your body
Have you thought about how the sound of a siren affects your body? Perhaps something more familiar to us is the disturbance caused by the alarm that wakes us up in the morning. Those shocks are pretty damaging to our bodies.
However, it is impossible to avoid them. We live in a world marked by noise where we mainly need it to survive. It is up to us to take small actions to keep our bodies in perfect condition. For example, taking a 10-minute break and being quiet every 3 hours lowers your heart rate, regenerates new brain cells, and lowers your blood pressure. In addition, it helps to have a good memory and learn faster since it facilitates the restructuring tasks of the hippocampus.
Benefits for your mind
The benefits for the mind are even more significant than the benefits for the body. When it comes to resetting our brain and its functioning, the only way is through silence. Using silent relaxation techniques such as mindfulness will provide a few minutes for the brain to rest. At this time, with a healthy and empty brain, our minds will be filled with creativity and positivity to return to the daily hustle and bustle.
Some tips for having moments of silence.
1. Turn off or mute digital devices. Your cell phone is an excellent source of interruptions. At the same time, being busy generates frustration, pressure, and stress. Muting notifications is key to enjoying the benefits of silence.
2. Take walks in search of silence. Nature walks or walks on the city’s outskirts do not imply silence since each environment has its own sounds. But they allow you to get away from traffic and other sources of noise that contribute to increased stress.
3. Go to libraries or other quiet spaces. If you live in a city, a public library, a museum, a gallery, or some other place where silence prevails can be a welcome oasis. It can help you pause, slow down, and calm down to continue with renewed energy for the rest of the day.
4. Use earplugs or headphones. Earplugs or noise-canceling headphones can be of great help, especially for those who live in very noisy areas and cannot be isolated even inside their homes. If you cannot have silence because you live with other people, listening to soft music or sounds such as rain, falling water, or the sea can be very helpful.
5. Find at least ten minutes to practice mindfulness. Find that daily moment to disconnect from all external and internal noise. You will be able to be more balanced, more centered, and less prone to be emotionally reactive.