May We Get A Moment Of Silence?

Can you imagine what the world would be like if there were silence breaks built into school and work days?  Of if there were silence rooms or outdoor spaces created especially so you could enter and there was no ambient noise, or only sounds from nature?  

If there’s one thing I’ve heard more often from introvert HSP’s, it’s that need to pull into the quiet calm of silence to settle frayed nerves and recharge.

When a friend suggested the title for this article, I was a bit stumped on what to write, but intrigued by the idea.

I wondered – when do we actually ask for moments of silence?

And are we asking others to stop being so loud for there to be silence, or are we asking ourselves to stop the over-thinking?

The only time that occurs to me where there’s a custom to ask for a moment of silence is when we honor the dead.  What is it about death that seems to make silence something natural and needed?

Maybe because in silence there can be reverence, an opportunity to touch something deep within us.  Maybe because a moment of silence that honors the dead offers the chance to reflect on life.

Silence is grace.  Silence is the breathing space between words.  Silence is the container that holds possibility, reflection, renewal, creativity, rest and regeneration.  Silence is presence.

But it turns out that silence isn’t just a relief.  Silence is good.

The word “noise” literally comes from the Latin root, meaning queasiness and hurtful.  The World Health Organization actually called noise pollution the Modern Plague.  It certainly feels like a plague to me!

Noise messes up your sleep and your nervous system, raises your blood pressure.  When your body picks up on noises, particularly low noises, your body becomes alert for danger.  It triggers a fight/flight/freeze reaction that can set in motion a hormonal cascade if you are sensitive and your body is activated.

Ultimately, this stress can produce inflammation in the body that then triggers cortisol production.  Over time, high levels of cortisol mess up your immune system, contribute to insulin resistance (making it harder to lose weight), affect your thyroid (affecting your vitality and energy), your digestive and elimination systems (your ability to break down nutrients and rid yourself of toxicity) and more.

Noise also puts you at risk for depression, heart disease, and infectious disease.

So, it’s not about being “whiny” or “too sensitive” when you ask for silence.  It’s about your  health and energy levels.

Two minutes of silence relaxes you better than relaxing music.

One small study looked at the effects of relaxation music on its subjects.  It turned out that random pauses of silence for two minutes between tracks “reduced heart rate, blood pressure, and minute ventilation, even below baseline.”  It surprised the researchers to find that the silence actually worked more effectively to relax the subjects than the relaxing music.

Silence may make you smarter.

In another study on mice, it turned out that silence led to greater numbers of “newborn” neurons in young mice.  These neurons were then were able to be recruited for functional purposes.  Of course, we’re not mice, but it is interesting to contemplate the possibility that silence can actually be a critical component to the way our brains “work.”

Silence in your head brings calm and peace.

Recently published research shows that mindfulness changes the area of the brain that processes psychological stress, and areas having to do with focus and calm.

Even four months after the study, the participants who practiced mindfulness showed much lower blood levels marker for unhealthy inflammation, even though few were still meditating.

National Institute of Health (NIH) published a study on the use of Transcendental Meditation by teachers and staff and found that it significantly reduced stress, depression, and teacher burnout.

Dr. John Hagelin‘s less than 12 minute presentation at TedX Women in 2012 is a fascinating discussion of the science behind why such deep rest (more restful than sleep!) is so important.  Basically, meditation calms the part of your brain (amygdala) that can send you into fight, flight, freeze reactions when there is no actual danger present.

Asking “May We Get A Moment of Silence?”of others is a way of asking for what you need to be healthy.  Noise is literally killing you.

But it’s also a way to ask yourself to quiet your over-thinking brain to reflect, integrate, soothe, and recharge.

So, knowing that there’s a lot I should do, and many things I don’t do, I thought I’d create a list of 3 easy ways I’ve started to get the silence I need–and relief from my own overthinking.  3 Easy Ways To Stop Overthinking

Image Credit: Dave Briggs

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Eva Rubin, MPH/LCSW

Hi! I'm Eva Rubin, LCSW. I study the psychology and the art of how to live well as an introvert and sensitive person so that I can learn and share it with you.
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