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Silence and Brain Health
Your brain needs silence. Perhaps not all the time, but your brain cannot be healthy and productive without it. There are many benefits to ‘the sounds of silence’, such as triggering the development of new brain cells and enabling the brain to actually ‘think’ (as opposed to just carrying out its untold number of automatic processes).
Silence Triggers the Development of New Brain Cells
Studies show that silence helps trigger the development of new brain cells which develop into functioning neurons. The hippocampus, which is responsible for learning and for processing emotions and memory, shows newly developed cells after exposure to silence.
Silence Enables the Brain to Think
Some people believe that silence relaxes the brain too much, whereby it becomes unproductive. This is not entirely true. If you are in a totally silent environment the brain is still busy processing thoughts and busy sorting and evaluating information.
You would have experienced this, by silently pondering and reflecting on past events. When your brain is not distracted by noise, it can smoothly process information.
Noise Stresses the Brain and the Body
Noise can have a negative impact on the brain, resulting in the body releasing the stress hormone cortisol. Experts believe that the amygdala, which is situated within the brain’s temporal lobes, is constantly activated through the chronic production of the stress hormones. The amygdala is the part of the brain responsible for processing memories and emotions.
Therefore, an individual living in a noisy environment is more likely to release chronically high levels of cortisol. Even if the level of noise does not produce hearing damage, it may certainly be loud enough to cause ‘dis-stress’ on the body, both physically and mentally, as a result of this constantly-engaged brain activity.
Silence Releases Stress from the Body
If noise is a problem, silence is a solution. Silence helps release stress from the body. The findings of a study which was published in the Heart journal showed that two minutes of silence provided more relaxation benefits than a person listening to two minutes of music.
Noise Harms Cognitive Functioning
Noise is also harmful to a person’s productivity and performance. It decreases motivation while increasing the tendency to make mistakes. Noise can have an adverse impact on the brain’s cognitive functioning and affects the brain’s ability to process memory, solve problems, and focus.
Noise Increases Risk of Illness
Experts have discovered a link between high levels of blood pressure and chronic exposure to noise from airports or highways. It has also been linked to higher rates of heart disease, tinnitus and sleep loss. These studies were performed in an effort to show how ‘noise pollution’ has a negative effect on health.
As we said earlier, noise leads your body to produce the hormone cortisol. This significantly strains your body’s entire system, resulting in elevated blood pressure levels and heart rate, while chronically constricting blood vessels. This is a precursor for developing heart disease.
It also can increase the risk of developing anxiety and depression and unwanted behaviors such as anger and aggression.
To better understand the impacts of noise on our heart health, a study showed that being exposed to persistent noise greater than 65 decibels, did indeed affect the cardiovascular system.
” 65 decibels is similar to that of the background noise in a restaurant.
” 85 decibels is approximately the level of noise a blender makes.
How the Brain Reacts to Music
Numerous studies have been conducted to show how something invisible to see, such as noise, can create such a profound effect on a person’s physical wellbeing.
When noise is heard, its sound waves reach the ear as it vibrates through the cochlea. The cochlea converts these sound wave vibrations into electrical signals so that the brain can process them. Even when you are asleep your body reacts to these electrical signals in the brain, even in a deep sleep cycle.
Neurophysiologists say that the sound waves from noise are first activated in the amygdala. This is where numerous clusters of neurons activate to process memory and emotion.
As far as reacting to music, study participants were asked to listen to 6 different musical tracks. They found that the music manifested changes in each person’s blood pressure and carbon dioxide, and also in the brain circulation. For each sound track, there was a corresponding physiological change that occurred.
The most interesting finding was observed between the musical tracks. The blank pauses in between tracks suddenly became the object of their study. They found that the silence gave study participants a release from carefully paying attention to the music they were listening to and provided a deeper sense of relaxation.
What to Do to Turn Down The Noise
If you live where it’s noisy, you can improve your surroundings with several tweaks. For example, make your home more soundproof by filling any holes or gaps to the outside. You can also change your windows, and also hollow doors with solid ones, to help soundproof your home.
If internal noise in your home is higher than you’d like it to be, perhaps turn off any devices when you’re not actively paying attention to it, such as the TV and music players.
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