Peace and quiet – the fondest wish of parents, teachers, and overworked, over-stimulated adults everywhere. By resting our ears, we can begin to rest our minds, our hearts, and our souls. We have always felt this in the deepest levels of our being, and, as it turns out, science has proven it.
Here are four scientific benefits of silence:
Silence Builds the Brain
According to Duke University regenerative biologist Imke Kirste, silence can be instrumental in brain growth. In 2013, Kirste studied the effects of different sounds on the brains of mice. Her experiment exposed the mice to music, baby mouse calls, white noise, and silence. Although the silence was intended to be an experimental control, she accidentally discovered that it can have a profound impact on neurological functionality. Kirste found that two hours of silence per day prompted cell development in the hippocampus, which regulates memory and the five senses. Neurogenesis, she reasoned, could be an adaptive response to quiet. Although the growth of new brain cells isn’t always healthy, the ones produced in times of silence were proven to be beneficial. As Kirste explained,“We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.”
Silence Facilitates Reflection
We also need silent moments in order to reflect on the world, ourselves, and the connection between the two. When you are actively absorbing information, performing a task, or working toward a goal, your energy is focused in an external direction. We need silence in order to redirect our attention to our inner workings and personal growth. As Herman Melville once wrote, “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.”
Silence Helps Us Let Go of Stress
Can you remember a time when, even though nothing alarming actually happened, you found yourself growing more and more tightly wound throughout the day? Chances are, your body was reacting to the amount of noise around you. Noise activates our stress hormones in the same way that a worrisome event or impending fear might. One study, for example, found that children living near the Munich airport had significantly higher blood pressure than children in quieter neighborhoods, putting them at risk for heart problems later in life. Stress has a profound impact on our physical, mental, and emotional health – and most of us are in real danger from it.
Silence Allows the Brain to Process Information
Even when the brain is in a resting mode, it is still working at a mile a minute. When we are sleeping, for example, our brains are constructing elaborate dreams and, of course, processing all of the facts and emotions that get thrown at us throughout the workday. For this reason, it is important to give our brains a moment free from stimulation. Your brain needs time and space in order to integrate internal and external information effectively.
Those are only four of the many, many virtues of silence. Take a quiet moment for yourself today – you deserve it.