“Silence is golden,” sang The Tremeloes in 1967, and how right they were. Silence helps counteract the ill effects of noise on the brain, and it helps replenish the depleted strength of the body.
An increasing body of evidence suggests that silence supports the healthy functions of the body, mind, and soul. It undoes the detrimental effects that noise pollution inflicts upon the brain.
More than one study has shown that noise is responsible for higher levels of stress hormones in the body. They showed that excessive amounts of sound directly and negatively affects the brain.
The ear turns sound waves into electrical signals that it sends to the brain. This is an automatic process that takes place even when a person is sleeping. When the latter happens, the amygdala (the part of the brain that controls emotion and memory) is forced to activate.
In turn, the disturbance causes the release of harmful stress hormones. Constant exposure to high levels of noise raises the concentration levels of these hormones, which is connected to heart disease, high blood pressure, lack of sleep, and other health concerns.
Silence is healthier than loud noise or even relaxing music, says study
Silence, in contrast, brings about the opposite, beneficial effect. While it was originally treated as a mere baseline of comparison with either music or noise, researchers eventually came across the benefits of silence, which countered the harmful effects of loud noise.
In 2006, researchers at the University of Pavia (UNIPV) investigated the physiological effects of noise and music. Study author Luciano Bernardi reported that the participants in the experiment displayed a strong reaction to the two-minute-long blank pauses that separated the recordings of noise and music.
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Bernardi found that the brains of the participants exhibited greater levels of relaxation during these “irrelevant” periods of silence when compared to either the relaxing music or the prolonged silence leading up to the experiment. He shifted the focus of the study to these blank pauses and figured out that contrasting levels of sounds increased the beneficial effects of silence on the brain.
Many teachers of meditation and spirituality recommend taking similar meditative breaks of silence every day. And Duke researcher Imke Kirste found that enjoying two hours of silence promoted the development of sensory-related brain cells in the hippocampus.
Spend some quality time by yourself in utter silence
The modern-day digital world constantly bombards us with large amounts of sensory feedback. This nonstop stimulation prevents the brain from resting properly. This means it cannot restore its depleted cognitive abilities.
Out of all the parts of the brain, the prefrontal cortex suffers the most. This brain region handles decision-making and problem-solving skills. High levels of stress will impair these important skills and lead to mistakes.
However, if a person is able to take a break from the constant demand for focus and enjoy some silent time alone, the prefrontal cortex and the other parts of the brain will be able to recover their original capability.
Silence encourages new cells to transform into new neurons that are seamlessly integrated into the complex network of the brain. It also helps us focus scattered thoughts so that we can review our actions thus far and get the insight we need about our state of mind and body. And it removes the stress and tension attributed to noise pollution.
Noise can ruin our concentration, ability to think, motivation, and brain activity. But these detrimental effects can be amended by spending some time in silence, a teaching of ancient spiritual masters that is now being supported by scientific fact.