Shush Already! The Benefits of Quiet for Body and Mind
In our modern age, we are besieged by a veritable cacophony of noise! Whether its the strains of nearby traffic, background television sounds, blaring headphones, the intermittant vibration of a cellphone, or the subtle but every present hum of the air-conditioner, noise is ubiquitous!
Not only are we so habituated to this inescapable din, that when we are abruptly faced with silence, we are suddenly thrown off balance and feel we have to find a way to inject noise back into the environment. I know I’m not the only person out there who has got themselves stuck in the habit of turning on the television when I get home "for the company!"
The problem of noise
Extensive research exists on the detrimental effects of noise and the benefits of a little peace and quiet. Studies done on stress and the adrenal glands demonstrate that even low-level chronic noise increases aggression and decreases cooperation and is associated with increased risk for such serious physiological problems as peptic ulcers, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, stroke and even suicide.
Another study reveals that a noisy environment, such as a bustling restaurant, can cause short-term memory to become overloaded, because the brain circuitry that processes recall is the same one that handles noise. This makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Have you ever got lost while driving and needed to turn the radio down or off altogether until you find your way again?
Silence is golden
A period of quiet doesn’t just enhance mental focus and happiness. When you’re subject to a barrage of background noise, you miss out on the tiny moments throughout the day when your brain could be off duty, and the chance to reflect, process and integrate thoughts, ideas or learning, such as that inspired moment of creativity you had during your morning shower!
Quiet isn’t just the absence of sound, rather, it is the stillness found in green spaces or early morning coffee, is enough to calm the mind and lift the spirit. As such, quiet is a gateway to tranquility, healing and restoration, and offers real physical benefits.
Being quiet induces a mind-body connection that’s been demonstrated to relax muscles, lower anxiety and pain, and enhance one’s overall sense of control and well being. Indeed, all spiritual disciplines embrace a time of quiet contemplation as the pathway to the divine, whether through silent meditation, prayer, or visual imagery.
Setting out to increase the amount of quiet time in your day takes a strong intention and a great deal of effort! We come up with all kinds of supposedly credible excuses, blaming our overburdened schedule, or fearing that quiet will bring on boredom or loneliness.
Fortunately, there are ways to slow down, unplug and be quiet. The following are several ideas for introducing (or reintroducing) quiet back into your world:
Take 10 minutes first thing in the morning to engage in a silent activity like journaling, stretching, going for a walk, yoga practice, or just sitting in silence with a nice cup of hot tea.
Eat at least one meal a day in solitude and silence, taking time to eat slowly and savoring your food, and offering a moment of gratitude for the meal on your plate.
Practice belly breathing by laying on the flow with your eyes closed, placing your hands on your belly. Become aware of your breath and inhale and exhale slowly and deeply, letting every part of your body get a physical experience of your breath. Try doing this for about five minutes, but longer is even better!
Spend some time every day reading quietly. Make sure you book choice is up-lifting and nourishes you mentally and spiritually.
During your commute to work, opt for a time of quiet instead of automatically turning on the car radio. Allow yourself at least 5 or 10 minutes of quiet before tuning into your favorite station.
Set boundaries for your smartphone use by committing to having certain times of the day when you cannot look at your phone, such as mealtimes, making it a time to be present with your family.
Turning off notifications on your phone will cut down on the distractions and constant threat of interruption, allowing your brain to ponder higher things!
Nothing gives instant relaxation like a bath! Once or twice a week, light some candles and dip into the tub after the kids have gone to bed. Spend the time reflecting on the day and being thankful.