Dialing down the noise may offer significant psychological and mental health advantages. Do you welcome silence, or do you cringe at the mere idea of sitting with your thoughts? We live in a noise-filled world, and for some, the constant background clatter helps us tune out any unwanted thoughts that may fill our minds. For others, spending time in silence can provide a moment for some much-needed clarity. If you fill your free time with noisy activities, you may be missing out on the advantages that silence can provide. Our lives are busy, and many of us don’t embrace silence that often. So how can silence help us? Finding moments of silence can be difficult, but time spent in silence may offer physical and mental health benefits. Here’s what silence can do for you:
Silence can set the stage for the practice of mindfulness mindfulness , which has a range of mental health benefits. “Being mindful and aware of what is happening in the present moment can reduce anxiety, quiet racing thoughts, and calm the nervous system, says Sarah Kaufman, a licensed master social worker based in New York City. Being mindful allows you to settle into your mind and body and sit with the present moment. If you feel the impulse to stimulate your brain, try and redirect your attention to the quiet, present moment.
Silence can help increase your self-awareness by giving you the chance to observe and accept your thoughts and feelings without judgment. When you’re sitting in stillness and silence, you become more aware of your body and mind. This can give you a lot of information that you can compassionately question and work better to understand, explains Kaufman. What feelings come up for you? Do you feel calm, relaxed, and peaceful? Or do you feel anxious, antsy, or bored? These questions can help put you in touch with your feelings and emotions, helping to provide meaningful answers to your life.
Quieting the mind can boost brain growth, according to a 2013 animal study in mice. Researchers found that when mice were exposed to 2 hours of silence each day, they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the brain region that’s linked to our memory, emotions, and ability to learn.
We all feel stress from time to time, but silence may help decrease stress levels by lowering cortisol adrenaline levels. An older found that just 2 minutes of silence can be more calming than listening to relaxing music. This was attributed to changes in blood pressure and blood circulation to the brain. When we allow ourselves to be in silence, we allow our brains to hit the reset button and be refreshed by just slowing down, says Brent Metcalf, a licensed clinical social worker in Johnson City, Tennessee. “This reduces stress and anxiety symptoms as well from all the chaos in our lives.”
The brain needs time to think, reflect, and rest. It needs time to file away the stuff it has already learned and make room for the new information. If you create quiet time during the day, you’re giving your brain the time to process any new information coming in.
“Creativity is an enormous benefit of silence and stillness,” says author Maggie Dent in her book, “Saving Our Children From Our Chaotic World: Teaching Children the Magic of Silence and Stillness.” “The zone of Inspiration needs the mind to be calm and relaxed, and the body needs to be in the background,” explains Dent. Quieting the mind can help make room for creativity.
“Silence aids concentration,” explains Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo, a psychologist in Chicago, Illinois. “One of the reasons why silence has become such an important part of everyday life is the ability to focus when the modern world and its many noises bombard your brain all at once.” This background noise can interfere with your ability to concentrate. You may be able to focus best in a quiet environment or with little background noise, says Lombardo.
Finding moments of silence can have significant psychological and mental health advantages and give you a greater sense of peace. With all of the constant noise you hear on a day-to-day basis, embracing silence can help stimulate your brain and help you process information. It can also help you become more self-aware and relieve stress. Embracing silence may also help you settle into the present moment and quiet any racing thoughts. It can also help you be more creative and improve your concentration and focus. With a bit of practice, you can reap the benefits of silence and improve your mental health and wellbeing.