For thousands of years, people have practiced silence in order to connect with their inner selves and cultivate self-awareness, compassion, and clarity of thought—the fundamentals of personal and spiritual growth and transformation.

Its significance goes beyond spirituality, however. A number of scientific studies have proven the health benefits of silence. Some include:

  • Decreases Stress: The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), in 2005 found that silence relieves stress and tension in the brain in less than two minutes. The study found that silence was more relaxing for the brain than listening to “relaxing” music.1
  • Stimulates Brain Growth: In 2013, it’s discovered that spending two hours in silence daily leads to the development of brain cells in the hippocampus—responsible for memory and learning.2
  • Boosts Creativity: Spending time in silence enables brain to plug into its “default mode.” The default brain mode, in which our brain is able to tap into deeper thoughts, emotions, and ideas, actually requires the brain to be idle and disengaged.3
  • Eases Insomnia Effect: In 2015, JAMA Internal Medicine found that spending some time in silence resulted in improved sleep in older adults experiencing from insomnia.4
  • Restores Brain’s Finite Cognitive Resources: Attention restoration theory proves that the brain can restore its finite cognitive resources when experiencing a lower level of external stimuli and sensory inputs.5
  • Increases Reflective Learning: In contemporary global society today we are experiencing an excess speech and other stimuli such as the urge to live majority of our time starring on screen. Practicing silence enables us to disengage and learn through introspection.6
  • Improves Memory: In 2011, a different NCBI research found that adults who walk alone in a park for 40 minutes thrice a week saw development of brain cells in the hippocampus—the region of the brain responsible for memory, learning, and emotion.7

On the contrary, research has also revealed the harmful effects of constant exposure to noise.

  • Loss of Healthy Life Years: The World Health Organization determined that the population of Western Europe loses at least one million healthy years of life annually.8
  • Increases Chronic Stress: The American Psychological Association (APA) research in 2011 revealed a strong and most definitive proof of direct correlation between chronic stress and exposure to noise. Higher level of noise exposure even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage resulted in significantly higher levels of the stress hormones and elevated cholesterol levels.9
  • Reduces Cognitive Capabilities: In 2011, APA research also confirmed what has been known for decades in the psychologist community that high level of exposure to noise impairs cognitive skills and development.10
  • Elevates Serious Health Risks: Florence Nightingale, a British nurse and social reformer wrote in 1859 “Unnecessary noise is the most cruel absence of care that can be inflicted on sick or well.” Astonishingly, evidences from recent neurophysiological research back her views. Direct links between noise and sleep loss, increased blood pressure, heart disease, and tinnitus had been identified.11

 

References:

1 Bernardi, L., Porta, C., & Sleight, P. (2005). Cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and respiratory changes induced by different types of music in musicians and non‐musicians: the importance of silence. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1860846/

2 Kirste, I., Nicola, Z., Kronenberg, G., Kempermann, G. (2013). Is silence golden? Effects of auditory stimuli and their absence on adult hippocampal neurogenesis.Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4087081/

3 Ursrey, L. (2014). Your brain Unplugged: Proof That Spacing Out Makes You More Effective. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/lawtonursrey/2014/05/16/your-brain-unplugged-proof-that-spacing-out-makes-you-more-effective/#479bef8f5624

4 Black, D., O’Reilly, G, & Olmstead, R. (2015). Mindfulness Meditation and Improvement in Sleep Quality and Daytime Impairment Among Adults With Sleep Disturbances. Retrieved from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2110998

5 Kaplan, S. (1995). The restorative benefits of nature: Toward an integrative framework. Retrieved from https://www.wienerzeitung.at/_em_daten/_wzo/2015/08/07/150807_1710_kaplan_s._19951.pdf

6 Zimmermann, A., & Morgan, W. (2015). A Time for Silence? Its Possibilities for Dialogue and for Reflective Learning. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/282546387_A_Time_for_Silence_Its_Possibilities_for_Dialogue_and_for_Reflective_Learning

7 Erickson, K., Voss, M., & Prakash, R. (2011). Exercise Training Increases Size of Hippocampus And Improves Memory. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3041121/

8 World Health Organization (2011). Burden of disease from environmental noise: Quantification of healthy life years lost in Europe. Retrieved from https://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/136466/e94888.pdf

9 Novotney, A. (2011). Silence, please. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/07-08/silence.aspx

10 Novotney, A. (2011). Silence, please. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/07-08/silence.aspx

11 Gross, D. A. (2014). This is your brain on silence. Retrieved from https://nautil.us/issue/16/nothingness/this-is-your-brain-on-silence