We all know how much noise there is in the world today. It can be hard to find some real quiet where you can even hear the constant chatter in your own mind. As we explore the last frontier- the brain, the role that silence plays in changing the brain is evolving. Studies with mice showed that when exposed to 2 hours a day of silence, mice developed new cells in the hippocampus- that part of the brain associated with memory, emotion, and learning. We know noise affects human performance, lowers motivation and increase errors. In the Journal Heart, two minutes of silence was more relaxing than listening to relaxing music and lowered blood pressure and changed circulation in the brain. With silence, the brain can let down its sensory guard and restore some of what is lost through excessive noise.
We also know that noise raises the release of stress hormones. It is believed the amydala(the part of the brain associated with emotions and memory formation) is activated with noise and releases stress hormones.
Not only is external noise stressful, the internal chatter of our thoughts plays a role in our well- being. A study looked at brain function of those trained in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. They showed decrease in the activity of the amydala (the part of the brain that responses to stress) and more connectivity between parts of the brain that regulate emotions.
So what is the take home from all of this? We must find some time each day to be in silence. Turn off the TV- radio- computer and get quiet. Not only is it vital to reduce the external noise, but try to quiet the internal noise of the non- stop thoughts running in your head. This is more than just relaxing your body (which of course is a great first step.) Try moving to a place of inner and outer quiet. There are many ways to try this form of quieting, but I have found that it starts with awareness of your breath.
Dr. Andrew Weil, an international integrative medicine physician has a great video which is called the 4-7-8 breath. Take a look- not only is it a great way to begin some quiet meditation, but is also a helpful tool to help you fall asleep- another important brain health activity!!
Make a commitment to find some quiet space today to not only help your brain rejuvenate, but to help you find your own sense of peace and quiet.