We currently live in a world of smartphones and technology where silence is very hard to come by. Our days are full of notifications, pings, beeps, television and everything in between. For some people, quietness feels strange and weird, but it has been shown that silence can actually help your health, both physically and mentally.
Silence is good for your brain. Sitting in silence for at least 2 hours allows the brain to prepare for upcoming mental challenges, it’s a way of “rebooting” our brain or “recharging” it. During this 2 hour time period the production of brain cells increases which makes your hippocampus stronger. The hippocampus is a small organ located within the brain’s medial temporal lobe and forms an important part of the limbic system, the region that regulates emotions. The hippocampus is associated mainly with memory, particularly long-term memory, however, the hippocampus is also helpful in spatial memory, such as navigation, finding car keys and your car in a parking lot! Additionally, increasing your brain cells will help decrease your risk of dementia which is caused by brain cell damage. To strengthen your brain, embrace periods of silence. When learning something new sit in a quiet space. The lack of noise will actually increase your brain function and help you focus.
Silence is good for your heart. Taking a 2-minute pause several times throughout the day can help reduce your blood pressure and heart rate, which are both risk factors for heart disease. Silence can even help improve your blood circulation.
Silence is good for your mental health. Having some quiet time can promote calmness, relaxation and inner peace. These are all good when feeling stressed, anxious or depressed. Taking time to think about events coming up and preparing yourself for situations that could present as difficult help you set yourself up for success. Mental alertness, concentration and focus are a few of the benefits of engaging in silence. According to a study in JAMA Internal Medicine, using meditation to achieve silence can enhance the relaxation response and improve mood. Meditative exercises are also linked to a calmer nervous system.
Some people have commented that sitting alone in silence is awkward and weird. We all need to learn how to be still; how to still our bodies and our mind. To be in constant motion is exhausting. Some people don’t like to be alone with their thoughts. Silence provides us with a time for ourselves; a time to engage in our inner thoughts and connect with who we are.
I encourage all of you to intentionally take time this next week to have silent time for yourself. Think, don’t think, but take the time to be alone and quiet. And the next time someone tells you to “be quiet”, thank them for looking out for your physical and mental health!
Kari Swanson is a Master’s level clinician with 25 years of working in the mental health field. She is the founder of CORE–Choosing Openness Regarding Experiences which is a non-profit organization with the mission to provide mental health awareness and suicide prevention education to Warren County.