We live in noisy times. We just can’t escape the sounds of modern life – traffic, construction, blaring music, airplanes, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, TVs blaring CNN in restaurants and waiting areas…
There is significant scientific evidence that all this noise, especially egregiously loud sound, is bad for our health. Heart disease, high blood pressure, stress, sleep trouble, and hearing loss are among the conditions tied to noise pollution.
So, maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that new research indicates silence is good for our health. In 2006, a psychologist studying the physiological impact of music on the human body made a fascinating discovery. His subjects grew most relaxed during the two-minutes of silence between music tracks.
During a 2013 study on what sounds might prompt brain cell growth in mice, a Duke University researcher found that two hours of silence each day resulted in cell growth in the hippocampus, that part of the brain that forms memories involving the senses. The scientist theorizes that silence is such a rare thing in life that when it occurs, the brain may actually be alarmed by it and kick into overdrive to understand what’s happening. Such a reaction can cause cell creation.
While these results are very preliminary, researchers are wondering if they might form a basis for developing treatments for dementia and depression.
So, where can you find true silence? Try Finland. A few years ago the largely rural country launched a tourism campaign embracing the isolation of its vast tracks of empty wilderness and positioning silence as a Finnish national resource.
That’s a long way to travel for peace and quiet, but after some days of marinating in the relentless noise of my hometown Atlanta, a flight to Finland sounds really good. Almost as good as silence.