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The Healing Power of Silence

November 1, 2022

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The Meadows

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By Anna McKenzie

Is silence good for you? Today, meditation and mindfulness use the discipline of getting quiet to boost mental health. Research has shown that silence can actually decrease stress and lower blood pressure, among other benefits. So how can you experience the healing power of silence, and what does that look like?

Research has shown that silence can actually decrease stress and lower blood pressure, among other benefits.

Is Silence Good for You?

After a quiet morning in nature or a meditation session, you may intuitively feel that a lack of noise is satisfying. But why is silence good for you? Noise, especially prolonged exposure to noise, can be mentally overstimulating and taxing to our body’s systems. Your brain is constantly trying to discern which noises are important and which ones signal danger. 

In fact, a study published in Frontiers of Psychology found that greater exposure to noise is one factor that puts people who live in urban areas more at risk for health problems. The study found that noisy urban environments expose residents to an increased risk for mental health conditions like depression and anxiety when compared to those who live in quieter, rural areas.

The research also revealed silence to have the ability to lower blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and cortisol levels. It noted: “a few minutes of silence significantly increased relaxation, improved mood, altered the perception of time and self and the orientation toward the present moment.”

However, practicing a few minutes of silence is not always easy. In 2014, Science researchers found that many people preferred administering electric shocks to themselves rather than sitting in silence with their thoughts. It concluded that most people prefer doing something over nothing, even if that something is negative.

The truth is that we crave activity and noise, and we’ve been trained to answer the notifications we constantly receive. We would rather mindlessly watch TV, answer emails, do random tasks, scroll through social media, text our friends, or even experience something like an electric shock than abide silently with our stream of consciousness. There are a few key reasons why we this is:

  • American culture favors productivity, activity, and excitement.

Sitting in silence is not very picturesque for your social feed unless it includes a beautiful nature scene. Doing nothing, even for a few minutes, feels like a waste of time, which is why we are constantly on our mobile devices during free moments, like sitting in a waiting room, on a bus, or in an airport terminal. We seek stimulation, despite how much stimulation exhausts us.

  • We don’t like what we start thinking about.

When we’re on the move, preoccupied with work, relationships, and daily tasks, we don’t have time to consider certain possibilities. Being silent allows those possibilities to creep in, and sometimes we don’t know how to handle what we encounter. So we drown it out with TV noise, podcasts, news, music, and activities. Running from our thoughts, instead of learning to manage them, will only get us so far.

  • We don’t understand the value of boredom.

Our brains need time to process all the stimuli we experience. When we’re bored, that’s when our creative thinking ability recharges and begins to activate. When input stops, that’s when the best kind of output can begin.  

There’s something restorative about being able to notice your surroundings in an unhurried way. It also feels liberating not to feel chained to the noise of life. In silence — and solitude (if you can get it) — you can gain perspective more easily than when you’re in the thick of your day-to-day experiences.

Running from our thoughts, instead of learning to manage them, will only get us so far.

How to Get Quiet

What are some ways to experience the healing power of silence? For starters, there’s meditation. Over time, this method allows you to cultivate an inner silence that can keep you from getting carried away by emotional distress or feelings of turmoil. Meditation often involves focusing on a single word or phrase, paying attention to the rhythm of your breathing, and taking deep breaths for a minute or more. 

If you’ve never tried meditation, you may find it nearly impossible; but with practice, you can extend your meditation time, and experience the healing effects of silence. If you find meditation difficult (and many people do), try a yoga class or use an app that can guide you through it. 

You can always experience a measure of silence by taking a walk out in nature. Even if you can only sit outside on a park bench for a few minutes — or take some extra time in your car before you walk into work — that can help. If you have a noisy living situation or work environment, invest in noise-canceling headphones, which can provide a sense of calm by reducing the incessant experience of auditory stimulation.

Mental Health Healing at The Meadows

If you find yourself experiencing increased levels of anxiety or depression, we can help. At The Meadows, we provide evidence-based treatment for a variety of mental health conditions, and we would love to help you get on the path to long-term healing. Contact us today to find out more about our programs and how we can assist you in your journey to wellness.