The incessant noise of modern life may not be doing your health any favours; so here are 5 ways you can harness the power of silence.
With noise pollution being increasingly linked to poor mental and physical health, it’s no wonder that silent retreats are a top wellness trend of 2018 or social movements such as Susan Cain’s Quiet Revolution, which champions listening more, are gaining traction.
To give yourself a break from the racket, discover the power of silence with these quiet activities. They’re scientifically proven to give your mental and physical health a boost…
1. Hang out alone
Albert Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi and Eleanor Roosevelt – they’re some of the best leaders and thinkers in history, and they all knew the benefits of silent solitude. To prove it, a recent study of 295 emerging adults found that unsociability (a preference for solitude) was positively associated with creativity. But you don’t need to isolate yourself completely to benefit. Simply opting to hang out alone every now and again allows our brains to go into ‘default mode’, according to researchers at Harvard and allows you the space to contemplate, process memories and be introspective.
2. Find a quiet space at work
Grabbing your laptop and squirrelling away in a quiet corner or meeting room may do more than just boost your creativity. German and U.S. researchers studying the effects of noise on the growth of new brain cells found that silence caused an increase of cells in the hippocampus, the region of the brain associated with learning and memory. The researchers posited that because silence is so rare it is perceived as alerting. If you’ve worked in an open plan office before, you’ll know just how rare it is!
3. Try a meditative walk
According to attention restoration theory, which was developed by psychologists in the 1980s, we’re better able to concentrate and recover from ‘attention fatigue’ when we spend time in nature. Take a silent meditative walk through a secluded park or beach, for instance, to give your brain a chance to recuperate from a particularly gruelling day at work or maybe even come up with your next great idea.
4. Designate ‘quiet time’ at home
Home can be just as deafening as work, so take a cue from the group of nurses at a New York hospital who introduced ‘quiet times’ to their ward, during which lights were dimmed, whispering was encouraged and environmental noise kept to a minimum. The research found that their stress levels were significantly reduced after these quiet periods. So if it’s practical, set a time, say between 7-8pm, when you can avoid your usual distractions and take a moment to bask in the quiet.
5. Embrace silence in conversation
As humans we dedicate up to 40% of all our verbal communication outward to self-disclosure, with many of us fearing silence in a conversation, according to behaviour expert Vanessa Van Edwards. After a colleague called her ‘an interrupter’, she took a vow of silence to improve her listening ability. The result? “I made better business and social connections during my silent week than ever,” says Van Edwards. People enjoy having to open up about themselves more, and this is even proven by Harvard neuroscientists. Talking about ourselves gives us pleasure, as it increases our production of feel-good dopamine. Though there’s no need to take a silent vow, consciously listening more is a no-brainer. It will likely lead to richer conversations and you’ll be more memorable for simply listening and remaining quiet.
Struggling to fit some quiet time into your schedule? Read our expert advice on creating more ‘me-time’.