TRY remembering the last time you just heard nothing. No background music, chiming, conversations, drilling on the streets, air-conditioning unit’s humming, or the snoring of the person next to you while you sleep. Just complete and utter silence.
If I made you pause long and hard and you cannot even recall a 5-10 minutes of silence in your life, you may already be drowning in noise pollution.
Commonly ignored and yet one of the most dangerous killers today is noise pollution.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organization, “Noise pollution interferes with the ability to comprehend normal speech and may lead to a number of personal disabilities, handicaps, and behavioral changes.
These include problems with concentration, fatigue, uncertainty, lack of self-confidence, irritation, misunderstandings, decreased working capacity, disturbed interpersonal relationships, and stress reactions. Some of these effects may lead to increased accidents, disruption of communication in the classroom, and impaired academic performance.” It may also cause or contribute to nausea, headache, sexual impotence, neurosis, hysteria, and psychosis.
People can’t seem to sit still today. Constantly bombarded by stimuli, we seem to be addicted to being distracted all the time. Unannounced power outage make people go berserk! The sudden silence around the house with all the gadgets and appliances shutting up sounds like a death knell.
Have we become too scared of silence?
Well, we shouldn’t.
Research shows that even 15 minutes of silence can create significant benefits to our overall wellness.
Silence is good for the brain.
Calming down the whirlwind in our mind gives the brain the opportunity to sort and organize all the data it has absorbed, including all the memories we made so they can be made useful. Whether it’s a three-day retreat or a few minutes daily silence, unplugging your brain from external noise gives it the time do some “big picture” perspective. Finally it can piece the puzzle of your experiences, derive meanings, and make the necessary reframing to help you deal with life better.
Surrendering to silence for at least two hours could create new cells in the hippocampus region, the part linked to our ability to learn, remember things, and even our emotions. This has been proven by a 2013 study published in the journal Brain Structure and Function.
Children are especially vulnerable to sensory noise and they are the ones who can highly benefit from learning to embrace stillness as an effective tool for learning.
Silence is stress-relieving
Just as noise elevates stress hormones, a mere two-minute silence can already release tension in the brain and body. According to a 2006 study in Heart Foundation, blood pressure decreases and blood circulation increases with exposure to silence rather than to the usual “relaxing music.”
Silence aids sleep
This is a great news for insomniacs. Rather than popping pills to help with sleep, a less costly and healthier way to achieve your dream of a good night’s rest is spending a few minutes each day in silence. Integrated during mindful meditation where focus is brought on the breathing exercises shunning any intrusion of past or future thoughts, it assists the body to relax.
Silence enhances sensitivity
Overstimulation has desensitized us to the point that most of the time we fail to recognize the important messages of our family, friends, and even our own body. Going into activities such as retreats that promote silence can increase our awareness to the issues we have swept under the rug and give us courage to finally take positive steps towards addressing them.
This Holy Week, as we get-together with families and travel back home or to other places, maybe we can prioritize some “alone time” to give ourselves the gift of silence.
For all the times we have been listening to the noise of the world and the chattering within our minds, it can be such a refreshing breather to be still. Set aside 15-30 minutes floating in the feeling of white nothingness. No expectations. No plans. No pressures. No stress. No noise.
Now doesn’t that feel good?
Have a blessed week!
Published in the SunStar Bacolod newspaper on April 12, 2017.
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