Noise, noise, noise. It's distracting. Whether it's someone venting about what's bothering them that day, or the insidious buzz of notifications on social media. Noise distracts and detracts us from the present moment. In our world today, we're constantly exposed to noise. With distractions like Netflix, TikTok, and the internet, reclaiming our focus can be hard but not impossible. And it starts with silence.
Silence Reduces Stress
Being in a quiet environment improves our ability to focus and be productive in our work.
According to research having minimal to no background noise helps reduce our cortisol levels (one of the stress hormones in the body). This relieves tension and stress. Why does this matter? When high levels of cortisol are present, our bodies go into fight or flight mode. Adrenaline pumping, heart racing, heavy breathing, we've all been there at one point or another. This response is a good thing in the short term, but can wreak havoc on the body if prolonged. I talk more about this in my healthcare burnout post. The bottom line is in silence our bodies are relaxed.
Study On Noise Pollution
The term "noise pollution" refers to unwanted or disruptive sounds in our environment. Studies have shown people's productivity in work and school are significantly impacted by noise pollution, resulting in decreased levels of motivation and more errors made in performing tasks. What's particularly fascinating is that children who live near airports, railroads, or busy highways have shown a decrease in cognitive abilities (such as language and reading comprehension), compared to children who live in quieter neighborhoods.
Silence Is Regenerative
A study conducted in 2013 on mice, tested the affect that noise and silence have on the brain. Some mice were exposed to different types of sound/noise, while the control group was exposed to complete silence. Due to unexpected results, the control group became the main focus of their study. Why was this the case? As it turns out, the mice which were exposed to 2 hours of silence a day actually developed new cells in their hippocampus (section of the brain associated with learning, emotion, and memory). In other words, their brains were regenerating cells. All because they were put into environments of silence.
Silence Helps Process Things
Silence allows us to process our thoughts and experiences. A study done in 2001 looked at what the brain does when it's in resting or "default mode". Results showed even when our brains are resting, they continues to process and evaluate information. Which opens a window of opportunity for introspection. It comes back to the philosophy of knowing thyself. Giving ourselves the freedom to explore this level of consciousness allows for self-reflection and can lead to deeply profound realizations and creative insights.
Silence Allows Us To Grow
Maybe you've heard the saying you're the average of the 5 people that you hang out with the most. When we're alone, we're no longer forced to absorb the thoughts and perspectives of other people. Instead we get to analyze our thoughts, beliefs, perspectives etc. This process is crucial, because at the end of the day we should aim towards what we want, not what others want for us. Making time spent with ourselves incredibly valuable. We should not be alone all the time. After all we are humans made to be in community with each other. But intention periods of solitude are necessary for personal growth, improved creativity, and less stress. It's a matter of learning how to use our time alone wisely.
Silence Can Make Us More Creative
Studies have shown that when you're bored, you're more likely to be creative. In a non-stimulated state, our brains can relax. Since we're not trying to solve some incredibly complicated problem, our brains go into auto pilot mode. We may find ourselves feeling restless in this state, but it's a necessary part of the process. Boredom serves as a catalyst to creativity. Perhaps this is why we have our most creative thoughts at the most unexpected times, such as in the shower or driving home from work. Silence can put us into a state of boredom. In a silent environment there are no external distractions, making it a strong contender to put us into a state of boredom which serves as a precursor to creativity.
Start With Small Periods Of Silence
If you want to implement intentional periods of silence into your day, I suggest starting small. Maybe 2 minutes a day and seeing how it goes. Find what works best for you. This flows into the practice of mindfulness, which grounds us to the present moment without judgement. Natural periods when silence occurs during the day are either in the morning or at night. This may be a good place to start. In periods of silence, I find I am more conscious of God's presence in my life, and the desire to talk to Him in prayer.
Take Home Message
The goal is that the periods of silence give us the refreshment and energy to do what we need to do. Whatever that may be. Having intentional moments of silence is like giving our brains a mini spa day. A little rest and relaxation from all the noise.