Let’s face it, noise is everywhere. It’s part of our daily lives. Even when we’re sitting in total silence there’s usually some background noise happening – the ticking of a clock, the whir or a fan, the clicking of a keyboard.
There’s noise and then there’s noise. Think about the sound of neighbourhood kids playing and a lawnmower’s roar, vs. the commotion of jackhammers and the roar of cars speeding across a highway. Research has proved an abundance of the latter types of noise pollution is actually bad for us and has been linked to high blood pressure, sleep deprivation and heart disease.
The World Health Organization in 2011 estimated the entire population of Western Europe (about 340 million people) lost a combined million years of healthy life due to heart disease caused by excessive noise.
Is silence really golden?
Scientists have found that the effects of various types of noise, such as music, short bursts of sound or ambient noise, all have varying effects on the body. As stated earlier, loud or jarring noise has detrimental effects, particularly on the heart. The positive effects of noise, or lack thereof, are somewhat surprising.
Put away your headphones
We tend to use the words “quiet” and “silence” interchangeably, but a 2006 study published in the journal Heart found that two minutes of silence produced positive changes in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain, whereas two minutes of “relaxing” music had a less desirable effect.
Tap into your mental well
A quiet mind is actually an active mind. In stillness, our brain goes into what is known as the Default Mode Network. According to the website Brainfacts.org, in the Default Mode Network, the brain remains active while we are awake, sleeping, focused, or daydreaming. One theory suggests when our minds wander in this mode, it enables us to tap into our stream of consciousness.
Another theory is that our brains go into processing and information maintenance – kind of like defragmenting a computer’s hard drive. Those who have “various psychological disorders including ADHD, Schizophrenia, Autism and Alzheimer’s exhibit different types of abnormal functioning,” state Brain Facts’ researchers.
When we’re bombarded with noise, it puts a stress on the area of the brain responsible for problem-solving and decision-making. This causes us to become distracted, and we struggle with focus, fatigue and the creative process.
In a world where noise-cancelling devices are a thing, a literal moment of silence can help the brain restore itself and help us refresh our mental stores.
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