Silence is golden, they say, and for good reason. Noise pollution impacts millions of people every day. Exposure to loud noise can also cause stress, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, heart disease, and many other health problems, says the CDC. Therefore, in an ever-noisy world full of distractions and background noise, saying nothing and spending some quiet time with oneself can be a welcome relief.
But silence has many more health benefits than you perhaps realize. Science says that time spent in silence can bring various mental and physical health benefits. Our lives are so busy that we don’t often get to find moments of silence, but when you discover its great benefits, you will start looking for reasons to get quiet.
Related: The High Price of Noise: Why We Need More Silence
1. Stimulates brain growth
Research suggests that quieting the mind can help stimulate brain growth. A 2013 animal study in mice found that 2 hours of silence each day helped develop new cells in the hippocampus, the region of the brain associated with memory, emotions, and the ability to learn.
This is intriguing and requires further research to understand if humans will experience the same effects.
2. Relieves stress
We all feel stressed from time to time, but sometimes, stress can be so acute that we are left overwhelmed with racing thoughts. Practicing silence might help. A 2006 study found that 2 minutes of silence can be more calming than listening to relaxing music. The authors say that changes in blood pressure and blood circulation to the brain are the reasons for this.
Some psychologists note that, when we allow ourselves to be in silence, our brains are given the time to hit the reset button and refresh. This eventually reduces stress and anxiety symptoms.
Another recent study found that participants who performed their task with noise in the background had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Excess release of cortisol can lead to weight gain, sleeping difficulties, and a feeling of being overwhelmed.
Related: Watch: A Simple Breathing Technique to Reduce Stress
3. Can improve concentration
Doing any task that requires concentration isn’t possible with loud blaring noise in the background. Research says that silence, on the other hand, helps us focus and improves our concentration. When our brain is free from noises, it can concentrate better on the task at hand.
A recent study in 2021 observed 59 participants performing tasks that required concentration with silence, speech, or other noise in the background. The results showed that the participants who worked in silence experienced the lowest stress levels and minimum cognitive load (the amount of information that working memory can hold at a time).
Psychologists explain that fully focusing on one thing at a time can help promote calmness amidst activity.
4. Boosts creativity
“Creativity is an enormous benefit of silence and stillness,” says author Maggie Dent in her book, Saving Our Children From Our Chaotic World: Teaching Children the Magic of Silence and Stillness. Science agrees.
Clearing the head from unwanted thoughts and focusing on silence can help boost creativity. While research on this subject is limited, many experts have claimed that mental downtime can lead to better creativity. Studies show that taking breaks can improve your mood and boost your performance. Experts feel that this is because learning to digest our thoughts and quiet the mind can make room for inspired action and spark creativity.
5. Can help lower blood pressure
High blood pressure is often referred to as a “silent killer” because it may show no symptoms. The World Health Organization says that hypertension is a major cause of premature death worldwide and that the number of adults with hypertension increased from 594 million in 1975 to 1.13 billion in 2015.
While there are many lifestyle changes you can make to keep your blood pressure in check, experts say that silence could also help reduce blood pressure. The same study that showed the effects of silence on stress also found that 2 minutes of silence after listening to music significantly lowered participants’ heart rate and blood pressure. The study further states that silence resulted in a greater decrease in heart rate and blood pressure than even slow, relaxing music.
Further, a 2003 study discovered that a chronically noisy environment increases heart rate and blood pressure.
While more research is needed to determine how silence helps lower blood pressure, these findings are encouraging.
Related: Silence Is the Most Profound and Beautiful Sound of All
Ways to get more silence in your life
While it’s impossible to escape the sounds and background noises that constantly surround us, we can find ways to get more silence in our lives.
1. Walk solo in nature a few times every week.
2. Meditate for at least 10 minutes daily. This will allow you to simply sit with your thoughts for a few moments.
3. Take mini-breaks from your task every day. Just close your eyes for those few minutes and let go of your worries.
4. Start your day before the rest of the family members in the house. Sit in silence and savor it. Drink a cup of coffee or read a book. Those extra few minutes of silence as you wake up in the morning will help you embrace the benefits of silence.
5. Try to go digital-free on the weekends and your days off and spend time with yourself. It might be a little difficult at first, but over time, you will savor those moments free of distractions.
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