We see how our cities are becoming louder, more distracting, and increasingly cluttered, and it seems more difficult to find quiet places in our day where we can pause and just breathe. And scientific research tells us that getting an adequate dose of silence each day is important to our brains.
What Silence does for Your Brain
When our brains are exposed to about 2 hours of silence per day they develop new brain cells in the part of the brain called the hippocampus. And although this hypothesis is derived from research with mice, it’s applicable to human brains as well. The hippocampus is a brain region associated with learning, emotion and memory, and there we see how silence makes your brain smarter as cell growth enriches the hippocampus. Silence is a valuable resource, a balm for our intolerably loud and busy environments, and it might well be considered vital for a healthy life much like clean water and air.
Silence Reduces Stress
We are all too familiar with noise pollution, and research has long linked noise to higher rates of sleep loss, heart disease, and tinnitus. When sound vibrates the bones in our ears, these vibrations activate the amygdala, the region in our brain responsible for emotion. This “loudness’ prompts a release of stress hormones like cortisol. Since loud environments subject us to chronically elevated levels of stress hormones, it’s harder for us be calm. Quiet environments have the opposite effect – silence releases tension and prompts relaxation. One study found that 2 minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to music.
During Silence our Cognitive Resources are Restored
One psychological theory – attention restoration theory – suggests that when we expose ourselves to an environment with lower levels of sensory input, the brain can restore some of it cognitive abilities. So during silence the brain can become smarter as new cell growth allows rewiring, responsible for learning, emotion and memory.
During Silence your Brain Analyzes
During silence the brain is resting, yet paradoxically it’s constantly analyzing and evaluating information. The brain at rest functions as a conscious workspace. And when we’re not distracted by noise, silence helps our brain relax and think about simple and profound things in an imaginative way. So silence is a balm for our creativity!