Silence: Why It might Be the Secret to a Good Mental Health
In 2011, the World Health Organization called the noise pollution we surround ourselves with constantly, a ‘modern plague’ which is disrupting inner peace and adversely affecting our health. We often use today’s technology such as television, music devices and cellphones to create white noise because solitude scares most of us.
But the constant bombardment of sounds acts as a stress trigger that can lead to several health conditions such as insomnia, anxiety and depression – which is why it is not surprising that most people, including young teenagers, admit to feeling stressed almost all the time. This chronic stress which has taken over our lives is leading to dire consequences including over-eating, smoking and alcoholism, according to WHO.
Benefits of Silence
Scientific evidence shows that noise pollution does alter our brain functions, which doesn’t only make us more stressed but also depletes our mental resources. A 2004 study concluded that loud sounds activate our brain’s amygdala and produce a stress hormone called cortisol which can result in insomnia and restlessness. Silence, on the other hand, has an opposite effect on the stress levels and only a few minutes of silent therapy can reduce blood pressure and boost mental health.
Our brain is constantly bombarded with sensory input throughout the day which can be exhausting if you don’t give it enough time to restore its cognitive resources. The best way to let your brain’s attention centers catch a break, according to the attention restoration theory, is by letting yourself be in total silence for a few minutes and not putting your brain under any stress. This will alleviate the burden from your prefrontal cortex and strengthen your problem-solving and decision-making skills in the long run.
A 2013 study showed that not only does silence help you think more clearly, but it literally helps your brain grow by regenerating cells in a crucial area of the brain called hippocampus, which is linked to learning and memory. It has been previously found that any cell regeneration in hippocampus can lower an individual’s risk of Alzheimer’s and other brain-related diseases.
Strategies for Practicing Silence
Considering all the adverse effects of the modern-day noise pollution on mind and body, ask yourself this: How many undistracted moments of silence do you get within a day to catch up with your own thoughts and focus on your mental and emotional well-being? If the answer is ‘not a lot’ then you can start now and use these simple strategies to escape the realities of life and spend a few minutes of your day in tranquility.
Take a Few Moments After Waking Up
What is the first thing you do after the morning alarm goes off on your bedside table every day? Do you reach for your phone to check social media and emails or jump out of bed straight away to get ready for work? The first few moments of your day provide a great window of opportunity to sit in silence and welcome the new day and all the possibilities it brings with it. You can also use this time to stretch your muscles and feel your mind and body coming back to life after a good night’s sleep.
If you don’t have 10 minutes to spare for quick meditation after waking up, you can even use your time in the shower to do a few breathing exercises and closing your eyes under the hot water to relax the muscles in your entire body.
Skip the Radio
Instead of listening to the radio and drowning out the world with loud music, use your daily commute to work as a great opportunity to sit in silence and be more aware of your thoughts and surroundings.
Silence at Lunchtime
Where do you often eat your lunch during work or school break? Most of us spend this precious hour in noisy cafeterias or restaurants with friends when we could use it to catch a break from work and relax our mind with silence. Practice 10 minutes of solitude every day after eating lunch to let your brain be completely thought-free before returning to work.
Time to Reflect
If you find it hard to get out of work-mode even after the office hours, it can make it harder to unwind in the evening after a stressful day. Take a brisk walk or hit the gym on the way back from work to release yourself from all the stressful thoughts and enter your home afresh.
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