Why We Need the Restoration of Silence

I’m somewhere in the middle of the Highly Sensitive spectrum, so I’m very aware of how noise impacts my anxiety levels and ability to concentrate. However, some of the most recent research in neuroscience is finding that we don’t just need silence as a break from the noise. We need silence in order for our brains to process information and to more or less “recover” from the noise of life.

Studies are finding that children who grow up near airports, highways, and other noisy environments have higher levels of stress and tend to struggle to concentrate in school. Without down time, our brains become overloaded.

One of the most important benefits of practicing contemplative prayer has been a greater awareness of my mental state and when I need to take a break. Prayer is much easier when my brain isn’t spinning out of control! Here are a few helpful quotes from a LifeHacker article on the importance of silence:

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When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues.

When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world.

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It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones.

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According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise.

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Read the rest of the LifeHacker article here.

 

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