Nowadays, life is increasingly hectic, made up of rushing, commitments, deadlines and even constant sound chatter that makes silence something increasingly rare. Yet even science has now shown how silence-the absence of noise-is beneficial for both body and mind, contributing decisively to recharging the body and, in general, promoting complete relaxation, even at work, better than any coffee break. But let’s see what silence or its opposite, excess noise, can trigger in each of us.
Throughout the twentieth century scientists have long investigated the effects of intense and constant noise in our bodies, from which studies the eloquent term “noise pollution” was born. Whenever we hear a sound, sound waves reach the brain in the form of an electrical signal and activate the amygdala, the part of the nervous system linked to memories and emotions. This triggers the immediate release of stress hormones, such as cortisol. This is why those who live or work in very noisy environments have higher levels of stress, have a harder time recovering mental energy, become more tired, and in essence may experience an overall feeling of discomfort. Other scientific studies have linked excess noise with hypertension.
Silence is energy
Silence has been shown to positively affect creativity, concentration, counteract stress and manage emotions. A study conducted by Duke University on animal guinea pigs noted that two hours of silence a day can promote the development of new brain cells. According to other studies, even a short break of silence during the day or in the evening can be of great help in regaining mental energy.
In general, it can be said that silence:
- puts us in greater contact with ourselves
- predisposes us to listen to the world around us and to others
- has a positive impact on our ability to concentrate, manage stress and emotions
- regulates blood pressure levels
- reduces cortisol and adrenaline levels
- can promote the development of new brain cells
- releases endorphins, the “pleasure” hormone
Benefits of silence: relaxing effect
We generally tend to view silence as a vacuum, a state of absence of noise and stimuli. In reality, studies have found that for the nervous system, silence is itself perceived as a stimulus by our nervous system, which then reacts accordingly.
The Italian study conducted in 2006 by physician Luciano Bernardi, who wanted to investigate the link between the brain and music, rather highlighted its opposite. It noticed how it was the silent pauses between one sound stimulus and another, especially if they were longer than 2 minutes, that caused the most important reactions at the brain level. These sudden intervals of silence, in fact, caused more of a relaxing effect in the listening subjects than any piece of soothing music.
The search for silence
When was the last time you found yourself completely immersed in silence? We live in a world that is far too noisy. Even when it feels like we are finally in a quiet environment, for example because the children are not home or because the television is turned off, we continue to experience sounds coming from outside…such as passing cars or neighbors’ voices. In short, even finding and enjoying silence in everyday life is not easy; one secret is to get there through meditation.
With meditation we “feel” silence.
Meditating may seem like something difficult actually all you need to do is find a place where you can be quiet, isolated and without distractions (turn off your cell phone, TV or any other device).
One of the simplest and most affordable techniques is one that relies on the breath. Sit cross-legged on the floor or an ordinary chair, with your back straight, and close your eyes. Now you need to focus on your breathing: visualize the air entering and leaving your nostrils and try to become increasingly aware of the physical sensations this position arouses in you.
Calmly go through each point of the body and identify the tensions, try to let them go one by one. Dedicating yourself in this way to your inner state will disconnect you from any external sources of disturbance and you will feel more and more strongly the presence of silence.
Even thoughts make noise!
Silence is not only outward but also inward. While you are meditating, try to observe the thoughts that arise in your mind, and then stop observing them and let them go. This is perhaps the most difficult part as thoughts tend to chain one to another and create mental chaos. To prevent this from happening always bring your attention to the breath. Let go of the thoughts and focus on the air.
Some MRI studies have observed that the practice of inner silence and meditation go a long way toward reducing the rumination of thoughts, that is, mental chatter.
Try incorporating the “break from noise” into your days: the benefits of silence.
Although our lives are often hectic, try incorporating a small 15-minute meditation session by being guided by the breath and make it a regular part of every day.
Some people like to take this small break in the morning before setting out on a busy day, others carve out some time for themselves during their lunch break, if we have a way to have a few minutes alone and in quiet settings. Or an alternative is in the evening, just before or after dinner, secluding ourselves in a separate, quiet room.
In this way after a long day we can quiet the hectic activity of the mind and regain inner stillness. You will emerge lighter, clear-headed and rejuvenated even from bad days.
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