How silence can improve your physical and mental health

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In an increasingly noisy world, neuroscientists are discovering exactly what kind of silence has the most dramatic impact on your mental health – from floatation tanks to guided meditation – and how much you really need

Health


August 10, 2022


Giulia Neri

MOST days I drown in noise. As a working from home mom, I’m stuck in the middle of a busy house with two dogs, two teenagers, and a husband who works in the next room. It’s a cacophony of Zoom calls, phone notifications, video games, music and barking, and that’s before my neighbor starts up his leaf blower.

Is it any wonder that I long for a little silence? The World Health Organization has my back – they say our world is too noisy and it’s damaging our health. Of course, for centuries we have known the importance of stillness: in many religions, silence is promoted as a vital healing process. But my noisy surroundings have made me wonder what benefits there are to seeking silence in the modern age.

Nowadays, people are looking for calm in all kinds of places. They join the monasteries for a silent retreat or head for the hills for a weekend of peace. There’s even a growing trend of spending time in sensory deprivation or flotation tanks – if you can afford it. Indeed, in his book Silence: in the age of noiseNorwegian explorer Erling Kagge calls silence “the new luxury”.

Understanding what peace and quiet actually do for our mental and physical health is the ambition of a group of neuroscientists and medical professionals who are beginning to unravel its benefits. By taking up their research, I discover that a little silence can be vital to offset the harmful effects of our noisy world. But how much silence do I need and where do I get it?

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