Silence is Our Friend
I was once hiking the Himalaya with a friend who was born and raised in Tokyo. All he ever knew was the hustle and bustle of this gigantic metropolis.
On waking after our first night amidst the grandeur of the mountains, I asked him how he slept. His immediate and emphatic reply was, “Terrible!”
Taken aback, I asked why. He answered, “It was way too quiet to sleep.”
I laughed and shook my head in disbelief.
This story popped in to my mind as I pondered what to blog about. I soon realized that our culture if filled with references to this topic.
Silence is golden is a common phrase parents often utter to their kids when they want a break from their child’s seemingly, endless stream of questions.
In 1966, the duo, Simon & Garfunkel released their iconic song, The Sound of Silence.
And, both the WHO (World Health Organization) and the US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) have declared noise pollution a source of serious ill health.
What is it about silence, then, that inspires such tropes. music and concern? From the physiological to the psychological, how does silence enhance our lives?
Physiologically, according to a 2011 study by the National Academy of Sciences, walking silently in a quiet and inspiring, outdoor space for 40 minutes literally enhances brain cell growth, specifically within the hippocampus.
This part of the brain plays a critical role in creating spatial coordination – letting our bodies know our placement within our immediate surroundings.
The hippocampus also, together with the limbic system, plays a critical role in improving our short & long term memories. This process is aided by silence.
Further, since the reception and interpretation of sound is an electrical and chemical process in the body, it automatically leads to stress as hormones are released, causing the body to work hard at understand all the incoming data.
Think about it. Have you ever had a time where you couldn’t recognize a particular sound – you couldn’t figure out exactly what it was? Your mind automatically works overtime until it finds a truthful, or at least satisfactory label, for the source of the sound.
This process engages the brain’s pre-frontal cortex – our source for problem solving and decision making skills. The cortex calms down and returns to a more balanced state when we silence surrounds. Not only does this result in better cognition, but enhances our sleep as well.
Psychologically, silence leads down numerous paths to good health. The benefits are many, including enhanced:
- self-control & awareness;
- perspective; and,
- access to a heightened sense of spirituality and inter-connectedness to the world around us.
Who does not wish to cultivate a mind filled with these healthy attributes?
Silence is truly our friend because friends want nothing but the best for us.
I encourage you to find a few minutes each day to cultivate moments of silence in your life.
Perhaps on waking, before getting up, lie quietly and be mindful of the quiet which surrounds. Allow the benefits of silence to permeate your presence. Or, see my earlier blogs on meditation. In any and all cases, make silence your new friend.
‘Til next time, be happy.