The Life-Changing Impact Silence Has on Our Brains
When it comes to mental health, there are quite a number of times when silence is gold and speech silver. Indeed, contemporary life is now littered with too many noisy distractions that we seem to have accepted it as the norm in society.
To truly appreciate silence, one needs to have an understanding of the dangers of noise. Sound levels above 85 decibels (dB) are quite harmful. Motorcycles, heavy traffic, leaf blowers, and loud conversations are some of the sources that generate such high sound decibels.
Excessive noise over prolonged periods like at airports can be detrimental to our health. Research done by epidemiologists has been able to trace a direct connection between chronic noise sources and high blood pressure. Noise has also been linked to sleep loss, tinnitus, and cardiovascular complications.
Individuals who work in quiet environments will attest to having better focus than when placed in noisy environments. In this particular aspect, libraries seem to have us beat since they’re known worldwide as advocates for absolute silence.
The human brains are wired in such a way that they are always in a perpetual state of functioning. This is true even when we are engaged in mundane activities that we don’t consider to require much deliberation. Scientific research has demonstrated that the brain is never in silence mode when we seem to have nothing to do; it usually operates in autopilot/default mode. The introduction of a new activity we need to undertake tends to divert our attention towards the new engagement.
A good demonstration of this is when we’re listening to a music track and it gets stopped abruptly. Ideally, one would expect the listening experience to have stopped in that instant. However, our brains have minds of their own. They are always perpetually working in the background, thus, when the music track stops, the brain will attempt to fill in the gap by creating the next verse in the song.
A study conducted on mice was able to demonstrate that 2-hour silences prompted the development of cells in the hippocampus. It is important to note that the hippocampus aids us in memory retention. It is little wonder that the smartest people like to frequent libraries!
Open work environments do not yield as much productivity as compared to closed office spaces. Working in open environments tends to bring with it a barrage of other factors that cause disturbances while we attempt to work.
The famous French mathematician Blaise Pascal once alluded that man is unhappy due to the inability to sit quietly in their chambers. To him, silence was of the essence in producing results. Given the fact that he was able to achieve numerous feats during his lifetime like the invention of the hydraulic press, the Pascal triangle, roulette machine, and the theory of probability, he seems to have a valid point.
Our lives today are dominated by numerous sensory inputs tossed at us. When we are away from major noise disruptions, our brains are able to isolate themselves and restore themselves back to default operating state. The absence of sonic disruptions plays a key role in activating this behavior.
Noise disrupts the prefrontal cortex of the brain that is essential in problem-solving, decision making, and high-order thinking. Once the brain is disturbed, our attention assets become exhausted. Continued exhaustion of the brain leads to mental fatigue and the inability to focus, become creative, and solve problems.
Participating in activities like nature walks and other activities that involve lower sensory inputs are important in the restoration of cognitive functions. In quiet environments, the brain finds its groove and auto adjusts back to optimum functioning. That can help explain the relative sense of calm most of us have when going on nature trips.
As humans, one can argue that our greatest quality is the ability to dream. This can be about activities in the present or our aspirations for the future. Daydreaming, fantasizing, and meditation are key indicators that our minds are at full cognition levels. Often times, partaking in either of these activities requires us to have a semblance of silence.
When external stimuli is not present to engage the brain, it is able to evoke more emotions, thoughts, ideas, and memories. Tapping into these can lead to enhanced levels of creativity, reflection, and empathy.
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