A Noisy World
As the clock on the night stand approaches 6.30am, the house is quiet. The blissful silence is suddenly broken by a loud alarm that rings until I wake up enough to hit the snooze button for five more minutes of peace and quiet. But, those five minutes feel like 10 seconds as the alarm rings again. I shut it off and force myself out of bed. Reality hits me square in the face as I turn on the light – the quiet time is over .¨a day filled with noise is about to begin.
From the early morning hours, throughout the day and into the late evening, we are bombarded with noise.
From personal music systems, traffic, business machines, TVs, car stereos, the shopping center, restaurants and more, we live in a world that is full of clamor and chatter. We listen to the car radio on the way to work, we talk incessantly with others at the office and we come home to an evening filled with the clanking of kitchenware, kids talking, dogs barking and the sounds of Monday Night Football playing in the background. The noises overlap each other so that not a speck of quiet airspace is left to enjoy. And it doesn’t end there. A number of people can’t sleep unless the TV is on or a fan is running throughout the night. We are enveloped by noise. It’s time for peace and quiet. Why? Well, recent studies have shed some light on how noise is contributing to the poor health we are experiencing in epidemic proportions in our country.
The scientific evidence now conclusively shows that noise has negative consequences on our health. From increased blood pressure to an increase in stress hormones and an increased risk for heart attacks, noise isn’t doing our health any favors.
Even more than that, studies have shown that noise has a detrimental effect on our kids. Noise adversely impacts a child’s ability to learn, grown and function optimally. In fact, noise-induced hearing loss is responsible for detrimental impacts on speech, language, cognitive, social and emotional development.
In the Journal of the American Medical Association (April 8, 1998-Vol.279, No. 14), it was reported that 14.9% of United States children aged 6 to 19 years have a low-frequency or high-frequency hearing loss of at least 16-dB hearing level in one or both ears. It’s time to re-evaluate the noise in our daily lives and focus on creating peaceful, quiet times. But, first we need to be aware that noise doesn’t just exist outside of us. There is noise within, too.
The Sounds in Our Heads
“There were sounds in my head. A little voice whispering.” These are the words in a song by Missy Higgins called Where I Stood from her second album On a Clear Day, released in 2007. In this song, Missy sings about the voices in her head telling her to leave and end a relationship.and she finds herself listening to the voices. This is the noise within us – the mindless, endless chatter that runs through our heads all day long and into the night.
We are often flooded with thoughts about the past and the future. We are rarely focused on the here and now, also known as the present moment. This means we are typically thinking about things that aren’t really happening. We wonder what we are having for dinner on Friday (and it’s Monday), is this relationship going to work out (future predicting) or if our kid is ever going to make it through college? We still feel guilty for something we did 20 years ago and regret not doing something we always wanted to do. These scenarios play on and on, filling in the gaps of possible quiet time.
Thoughts that are about everything but the present moment are stressful to the mind and body. Of course, we have to plan for future appointments and meal times, but we don’t have to take something from the past and work out an issue that has already ended. And we don’t have to fear for the future. We can set things in motion today to gain the outcome we want for the future and then just let it happen as it will. Fearing it and worrying about it won’t change a thing. All that does is create unnecessary stress. Living that way doesn’t make any sense.
All of this is the internal noise that exacerbates our health issues, even creating some of them, and keeps us from truly living. This isn’t working for us. It’s time for something new. So, where do we go from here? Although this article has, so far, brought to light the issue of noise in our lives and the difficulties this creates for us, this article is about silence, not noise. So, it’s time to focus on silence, peace and quiet and the marvelous health benefits silence provides for us.
So, just what does it mean to be silent? By definition, it is the complete absence of sound. But, it’s difficult to describe what silence is or feels like until you experience it. And there are so few of us who have truly experienced it.
Genuine silence is so much more than a lack of noise.
It’s healing, treasured time that is a highly productive part of life. This flies in the face of what we are taught and how we are currently living. But, this current way of life isn’t really working for us. The evidence for that is everywhere, especially as we look at our unhealthy, prescription-laden, sick-and-tired existence. We are meant to have an easier, happier life that is vital and enjoyable. It seems that it’s time to open our minds to something new and different. Silence is a key component to living the life we want and deserve.
Silence is best described with words in this way: Silence is the synchronization of outside noiselessness with the stillness of your mind without background thoughts. Anyone can do this. It just takes some willingness to change and a little practice. The benefits are endless. The short list of health benefits includes:
Boosts your immune system
Lowers blood pressure
Connects you with your parasympathetic system which promotes calmness and healing
Allows for good hormone regulation and interaction of all your hormonal systems
Keeps plaque from forming in arteries which helps to prevent cardiovascular disease and strokes
Helps your brain to become more interactive leading to higher cognitive abilities
Provides you with more energy
As if that isn’t enough, the short list of non-medical benefits includes:
Reduces mind chatter
Connects you to the here and now
Slows down or stops the negative scenario creating mechanism that holds you back
Helps keep you connected to your loved ones
So, how can you work silence into your noisy days? Start with turning the radio and TV down a few notches. Turn the ringer on your cell phone down, too. Then, step it up a bit and turn the TV off two nights a week and read instead. Swap thirty minutes of laptop, i-Everything and Facebook time for yoga, a quiet walk in the park or meditation. You may have your own ideas of how to reduce noise in your life. Be creative! These suggestions are your training wheels, so to speak, for cultivating a deeper, healing silence into your life. Want to take the training wheels off and really soar with silence? Read on.
Let’s say you have worked on a few of the suggestions above and you are getting the hang of this less noise, more silence thing. Now you want to kick it up a notch. Start with the following:
Identify a noiseless pleasant room or place in nature to practice silence.
Allocate a certain time every day to practice silence. This helps you build the habit of silence. The early morning works best if you can do this. Otherwise late evening is recommended.
Cut out all local noise, including fans.
Be alone, if possible. Silence can be done in the company of others if they are practicing silence, too, but this can still lend itself to external noise. Just do the best you can on this.
Start with 15 minutes a day for the first 30 days. Then increase the time by 15 minutes each month until you reach an hour.
Silence isn’t meant to isolate you, it’s meant to liberate you. Once you get into silence a little, you won’t know how you lived without it. Whatever you do, focus on creating opportunities for silence in your day. Yes, you will have to change what you are doing. Yes, you will have to go against the grain. Yes, you will have to do something different than you are currently doing. But, it is worth it. And, of course you are completely worthy all of the benefits of a peaceful, happy and healthy life. I’ll be quiet now.