Science shows noise hurts and silence heals
Nowadays it is increasingly difficult to find a place where it is quiet. The world around us has become pretty loud and cluttered. Sometimes you may find yourself seeking for some silence. This might be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think.
Noise has a powerful physical effect on the brains. Did you know that if you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones? Noise makes us lose our concentration, our connection with ourselves, our cognitive powers and causes decreased motivation and brain functioning. Sound travels to the brain as electrical signals via the ear. Even when we are sleeping these sound waves cause the body to react and activate the amygdala, the part of the brain associated with memory and emotion, leading to the release of stress hormones. So, living in a consistently noisy environment will cause you to experience high levels of these harmful hormones.
Interestingly, the word noise is said to come from the Latin word nausia which means disgust, annoyance, discomfort or from the Old French word noxia which means hurt, damage or injury.
Silence is golden
While noise leads to the release of stress hormones, silence relieves stress and tension in the brain and body. Silence is comforting and nourishing. It nurtures the mind, body and soul and opens us up to inspiration. The ancient spiritual masters have known this all along; silence heals, silence connects us with ourselves, and silence balances the body and mind. Luckily science is saying the same thing.
A study, done by Professor Gary W. Evans and published in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9), examined the effects of the relocation of Munich’s airport on children’s health and cognition. They found that the reading comprehension skills and long-term memory of children near the old airport improved once air traffic moved to the new airport, while the performance of children near the new airport declined. The study also showed that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech.
“This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise–even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage–causes stress and is harmful to humans.” Professor Gary Evans.
Physician Luciano Bernardi studied the physiological effects of noise and music in 2006. His study also showed some powerful results. When the subjects of his study were exposed to the random stretches of silence in between the noise and music, they experienced a strong effect. The two minutes of silence were more relaxing for the brain than listening to the “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.
Later research by a Duke University regenerative biologist, Imke Kirste, discovered that two hours of silence per day prompted cell development in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.
Unplug in nature
Every now and then it is healthy to unplug from city life and technology and go into nature. In our modern day society we are constantly processing enormous amounts of information. Sometimes our brain needs a rest. When we are in nature where we have lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In nature where it is quiet the brain is able to relax, to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise.
When we experience silence, our brains are able to work at better understanding our internal and external environments. We can make sense of our lives and gain perspective, something that is vital for our overall wellbeing. Besides that silence helps new cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.
The healing benefits of nature and stillness are well documented, but now we can add to this quest for health and wellbeing, the nourishment of our brains. The simple yet ancient experience of silence could be just the healing balm we need to deal with our crazy modern lifestyle.
Would you like to restore you battery in nature? Have a look on our “upcoming trips” page.