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Silence: A powerful tool for good health

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The absence of noise can have remarkable benefits for your brain, including reducing stress.

In our busy world, sounds come at us unlike ever before. Messages on our smartphones, home voice assistants like Alexa or Google Home, car alerts and of course the everyday sounds of living. Interestingly, the very word “noise” comes from the Latin root for pain or queasiness.

Recent research is showing that silence can have strong benefits on brain health. Some research has shown that constant noise can increase blood pressure and elevated stress hormones in people. Especially those who live in urban environments with the constant noise of traffic. Sound is vibrations that travel through the air and enter our ears and then bounce around inside our heads where they hit the hippocampus (the part of the brain that is associated with memory and senses) and that’s where interpretation of noise happens. Some sounds can literally knock you off your feet, while other sounds such as low resonance hums, can make some people feel ill or disoriented.

Oddly enough, our actual brains aren’t silent. Take for example, listening to a favourite song on the radio and it suddenly stops. Your brain takes over and scientists have found that the audio part of your brain keeps working. Then there’s those inner conversations we have (it’s normal, just don’t answer yourself back). So while we may find silence outside, our brain will often create its own “noise.”

Silence was originally used by scientists studying the effects of noise on mice and humans as a baseline. For, it was believed, silence had no effect on the brain. But in 2013, Duke University scientist, Imke Kirste was studying the effects of noise on mice and was using silence as a baseline and found that silence actually had more benefits than noise, noting that during periods of silence, brain cells in the hippocampus region actually grew!

For a longer read on the topic, you can check out this article in Nautilus from 2016. So what we now know, is that silence actually has real benefits for your brain and overall body health.

The benefits of silence:

  • Reduction of mental stress and stress hormones in the body
  • Can help promote cell development in your hippocampus
  • Enables time for your brain to process concepts and deal with recent events
  • At times of silence, it allows your brain to weave its place in the world, allowing for a greater sense of place and being

Sometimes silence just happens; when we rise early in the morning or take a walk in the woods alone, or as we lay down to sleep at night. You can also make a choice to find and be in silence. Perhaps even just at home when you’re cleaning or tidying up, even that silence can be beneficial. Maybe schedule some time once a week to just be in silence. You don’t have to meditate, but if you’re reading, just take a few moments for you–and give your mind a break!

More Inspiration: Check out this article on finding “you” through yoga!

Author: Giles Crouch is part of the Optimyz management team. He is a design anthropologist working at the intersection of people and technology and has been featured in Philanthropy Magazine and is regularly interviewed by news media. He also publishes on Medium as Webconomist.


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