We live in a world where we are inundated with sounds throughout the day — some pleasant, some not so pleasant — but we very rarely experience silence. Does this matter? Actually, it does. The World Economic Forum has just published a list of the worst cities for noise pollution based on over 200,000 hearing tests. (Alex Grey, March 27, 2017)
- Silence has been found to stimulate brain growth: In 2013, a study into brain structure and function found that a minimum of two hours of silence could result in the creation of new brain cells in the area of our brains linked to learning and recall.
- Noise affects our stress levels by raising cortisol and adrenaline. A study in the journal Heart in 2006 found that silence can relieve tension in just two minutes.
- Silence is more “relaxing” for your body and brain than listening to music – as measured by a lowering of blood pressure and increased blood flow to the brain.
- Periods of silence throughout the day enhance sleep and lessen insomnia. We have all heard advice about “winding down” before bed but few of us apply it to ourselves.
- Research throughout the 20th century has linked noise pollution to an increase in heart disease and tinnitus. The World Health Organization likened it to a “modern plague."
- Conor O'Shea writing for Lifehack found that on a retreat of 100 people, there was an increase in awareness and more time for personal reflection. There was space to listen to your inner voice and make measured decisions.
- You will find yourself able to focus better. This seems pretty obvious but how many of us try to finish a report surrounded by noise or colleagues and how many youngsters insist on listening to music while studying? Numerous studies demonstrate that this is unhelpful.
- Lowering sensory input helps us to restore our cognitive resources. We stop feeling overwhelmed. We can then tap into our creativity and daydream, fantasize, and meditate. When we allow ourselves this quiet reflective time we find that, as Herman Melville wrote, “All profound things and emotion of things are proceeded and attended by silence.”
- “The soul always knows what to do to heal itself. The challenge is to silence the mind.” —Caroline Myss. How you achieve this is up to you, but I find a 10-minute breathing meditation conducted in total silence calms me down and allows me to focus on the task in hand. I start to prioritize well so that unnecessary tasks become just that – unnecessary.
- A favorite quote of mine is attributed to Abraham Lincoln: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.” This last point is that we need to learn that silence is often the best strategy not only for ourselves but for others, too. Not everyone wants to hear your opinion. Before we speak we should ask ourselves, “Who does this benefit? Is this kind? Do I need to say it?”
“Speak only when you feel your words are better than silence.” – Anon
So silence is golden and also good for our health. Try and build some into every day to reap its numerous rewards. I’ll leave you with this quote from Deepak Chopra: “There is no substitute for the creative inspiration, knowledge, and stability that comes from knowing how to contact your core of inner silence.”
Goines, L, RN, Louis Hagler MD, Noise Pollution: A Modern Plague, South Med J 2007 100(3)
Herman Melville, Author and Poet, The Ambiguities 1852
Kounis, NG, European Heart Journal 2006