29 March 2017
I have been thinking a lot about the power of silence as I am continually bombarded by the beeps, pings, chimes and rings emanating from all the devices I have dotted around my home and office, as well as those belonging to my family, colleagues, friends and passers-by on the street. Not to mention the continual Rugby commentary emanating from the lounge room! Oh for the sound of silence – that rare commodity; parents long for it and adolescents shy away from it.
As the girls come to the end of a very busy term and embrace their free time, I would like to reflect on the importance of silence and its benefits. It is so seldom that we can take a while to enjoy a moment in this bustling world, and yet it is so important that we do. All too often we have the TV blaring in the background, our children reach for the radio/IPad/mobile phone the minute they climb into the car and, of course, the incessant variety of sounds emanating from our phones and computers reminding us that we are on call 24/7. Is it any wonder that they, and we, are frazzled at the end of the day – only to have sleep interrupted by vibrations and buzzes from our ‘silenced’ technology? We seem to constantly feel the need to be in touch, to be stimulated and engaged mentally.
Yet there is a lot of research regarding the benefits of silence to one’s health. Noise and especially noise over 30 decibels is associated with high blood pressure, anxiety, and stress. Dr Paul Haider (2012) in his article, The Health Benefits of Silence – Simple Yet Profound, lists some of the benefits of silence:
- Silence lowers blood pressure and allows you to deal with life’s challenges in a better way.
- Silence is like plugging in your phone… your mind needs to recharge too… and it does more recharging in silence than it does during sleep.
- Silence boosts your immune system… making it easier for your body to fight off invading bacteria and other pathogens.
- Silence makes you happy, spending time in silence boosts your brain chemistry… and as a great side effect you’re able to focus better too!
- Silence reduces stress (lowers blood cortisol levels and adrenaline levels) which is the biggest killer in the world… adding 30 minutes of silence a day can change your life.
- Silence allows for good hormone regulation and interaction of all the hormone related systems in your body.
- Silence helps your brain to become more interactive, thus you work with more of your brain… leading to higher cognitive abilities.
It would be wonderful if, during the holidays, our daughters could take 5 to 15 minutes (or more) every day to immerse themselves in silence – no music, no phone, no computer. Understandably this may be uncomfortable for them and would require a certain amount of willpower. Susan Leigh, of Lifestyle Therapy, understands that this can be difficult; she says ‘Silence requires us to become more confident, confident in our ability to be quiet and still, to find an inner peace that can enable us to sit and enjoy the silence… It is enough to just be there, in a relaxed, comfortable state of mind’. For those who cannot bear the thought of doing nothing for a few minutes they could fill this time with silent prayer, learn to meditate, read a passage that requires some contemplation or spend time reflecting.
As you can see from Dr Haider’s list, embracing silence and being comfortable with one’s own company can be a wonderful way to reduce stress at the same time as being very therapeutic. In the words of Lao Tzu, Silence is a source of Great Strength.
Wishing you all a blessed and peaceful holiday and Easter weekend.
Mrs Kim Cohen