The Surprising Benefits of Silence
When was the last time you sat in complete silence?
We live in a great community with a strong focus on health and exercise. Those who exercise understand the need for regular rest and recovery days. In the era of information, we are constantly strengthening our minds by taking in new information. In our quest to learn all that we can, do we give our minds a “recovery” period? You might be surprised to hear that silence is just the recovery our brains need.
Silence is the practice of avoiding the distractions and noises that so often surround us. From the moment we wake up until we lie down at night, we are bombarded with noise, which is linked to several negative health-related outcomes including higher stress levels, decreased concentration, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure.
The practice of eliminating noise can not only stop these negative effects from happening, but studies have shown that actively inviting silence into our lives can result in positive benefits to our health.
Relieves stress and tension. In 2006, researchers conducted a study on the benefits of music, where subjects were exposed to variations of music with two-minute intervals of silence randomly placed in between. These moments of silence produced more relaxation on the brain than any type of music to which the subjects were exposed. They found that two minutes of silence can lower blood cortisol levels and adrenaline, relieving the stress and tension we feel.
Results in better sleep. Silence can help improve sleep hygiene and help you get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer without the need for medication. Studies have also found that inviting silence by practicing mindfulness meditation can result in reduced insomnia.
Improves memory and fights mental decline. A study on mice examined the effects of sounds on the brain. Groups in the study were exposed to different sounds throughout the day, while the control group was exposed to two hours of silence per day. Surprisingly, none of the auditory stimuli produced long-term neurological effects except one – silence. Those exposed to silence developed cell growth in the hippocampus, the region of the brain associated with emotions and linked to learning and memory.
Leads to increased academic success. Arline L. Bronzaft’s research found that homes with children who were high academic achievers had quiet moments integrated into the home environment by turning off electronics, putting away toys, and removing distractions that caused noise.
In a world where information and entertainment are just a few clicks away, it may seem difficult to incorporate silence into our everyday life, but it is easier than you think. Start incorporating quiet moments by identifying a time when you regularly listen to or watch something, and practice eliminating that noise. This could take place while driving, exercising, or cleaning. Seek out moments of silence by going to quiet places to meditate, or take time to practice a mindfulness exercise. Over time, these moments will allow your brain the time it needs to recover, and you’ll feel the positive effects on your overall health and well-being.
Bernardi L, Porta C, Sleight P. Cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and respiratory changes induced by different types of music in musicians and non-musicians: the importance of silence. Heart. 2006 Apr;92(4):445-52. doi: 10.1136/hrt.2005.064600. Epub 2005 Sep 30. PMID: 16199412; PMCID: PMC1860846.
Black DS, O’Reilly GA, Olmstead R, Breen EC, Irwin MR. Mindfulness Meditation and Improvement in Sleep Quality and Daytime Impairment Among Older Adults With Sleep Disturbances: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(4):494–501. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.8081
Bronzaft, Arline L. “Beware: Noise Is Hazardous to Our Children’s Development.” Noise Awareness Day, 1997, noiseawareness.org/info-center/toll-on-children/#.
Bronzaft, A.L. (1996). Top of the Class. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
Kirste, I., Nicola, Z., Kronenberg, G. et al. Is silence golden? Effects of auditory stimuli and their absence on adult hippocampal neurogenesis. Brain Struct Funct 220, 1221–1228 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00429-013-0679-3
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