We live in a world inundated with sounds and rarely do we spend time in complete silence. To many of us silence is uncomfortable and we inevitably try to fill the void with sound. We listen to podcasts, turn on the TV, putter around the house, and text on our phones just to invite sound in. We are constantly accompanied by background noise of some sort. Despite this, philosophers and other tell us repeatedly, as novelist Herman Melville wrote, “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.”
Silence is good for your brain. In a 2013 study of mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function researchers used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sounds and silence had on the brain. Scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day, they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the region of the brain that is associated with memory, learning and emotion.
Recently there have been many news articles about executives embracing silence in meetings. Perhaps the Buddhist monks thousands of years were onto something when they choose to embrace silence. Just some of the reasons monks take vows of silence are to improve awareness of the self, to quiet and calm the mind, and to train themselves to listen more than to speak.
When was the last time you sat in complete silence?
While I’ve encouraged listening to classical music in to improve your mood, try silence. Meditation is one of the best ways to bring silence into your life. Start with setting the timer on your phone for a minimum of two minutes. If you are feeling ambitious, try for five. In a comfortable seated position either in a chair or seated on the floor, sit up straight, pull your shoulder blades towards each other, think of your ears above your shoulders, your shoulders directly above your hips. Inhale and exhale through your nose. Relax your jaw and when you close your eyes focus your gaze between your eyebrows. Sit as quietly as possible and follow your breath through each inhalation and each exhalation.