The Science of Silence

It may not have occurred to you as of yet, but practicing silence may be more important than you think.  Studies show that environmental noise that becomes too much for an individual can increase negative attitudes, and enhance levels of dislike for certain situations (van Gunsteren, 1999).  It’s important to have a balance of the noise that comes along with everyday life, and times for silence to rejuvenate.  Structured silence or practicing silence can be incorporated in your life in a variety of ways and has been explored in studies for the health benefits.  For example, Sahaja Yoga is a form of yoga that focuses on mental silence.  Researchers have studied the effects of having individuals participate in a structured Sahaja Yoga meditation and compared this group to a control group that did not participate in this form of mental silence (Chung, Brooks, Rai, Balk, and Rai, 2012).  At the end of the study, the group that had participated in the Sahaja Yoga group had significant improvement in quality of life, anxiety, and blood pressure, indicating that focusing on mental silence in a structured way, can enhance wellness (Chung, Brooks, Rai, Balk, and Rai, 2012).

Other research has focused on the importance of having children engage in silence, as their lives are often very busy and full of activities.  Haskens (2010) highlights that children and adolescents often view silence as something that is demanded of them, or a form of punishment, but when children are able to learn to be still and silent, they can experience a variety of benefits, such as higher levels of creativity, presence, calmness, concentration, and inner peace.  Based on the research above, if individuals are taught to engage in silence at a younger age, it may have more positive impacts on them as they get older, as silence has been shown to decrease stress and anxiety levels.

Incorporating Silence in Each of Your Days

Now that we may have peaked your interest in silence, we thought we would give you some tips on how you can start to focus on quiet time during your everyday life.

Make Time for Silence – Among your busy schedule, you may not feel that you want to add one more thing to your day.  But, incorporating quiet time for yourself most likely won’t happen unless you decide to make it a priority.  Start to think about picking a time of day where you can be silent in a quiet environment.   Is there a specific time of day where you can have some alone time?

Start Small – Taking on the practice of silence doesn’t have to be overwhelming (just like anything else we talk about) and in fact we don’t want it to be overwhelming!   When it comes to incorporating a new routine, it helps if you can start small.  Feel free to take 2 minutes out of your day to sit in a quiet environment and be silent away from distractions.  Once you feel comfortable with this amount of time, feel free to increase your quiet time as it works for you.

Get Creative! – It may seem hard for you to think of a time or place where you can be quiet and engage in silence, so you may have to get creative!  Whether it’s in your office at work, your room at home, your car on your commute to work, your favourite park, or even the public washroom!  You may have to think of creative places each day, and the places may change – all that matters is that you have a quiet place to allow yourself time to simply be, and be silent.

Thanks for taking some quiet time to read more about silence, quietness, and the health benefits of each practice.  We hope we’ve inspired you to add a little more quiet time to your lives in the midst of your busy schedule!  Remember “silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom” – Francis Bacon.

Live life lighter,
Carolyn and Steph

References
Chung, S., Brooks, M. M., Rai, M., Balk, J. L., Rai, S. (2012).  Effect of sahaja yoga meditation on quality of life, anxiety, and blood pressure. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 18 (6), 589-596.
van Gunsteren, H. R. (1999). When noise becomes too much noise. Noise Health. 1 (3), 3-5.
Haskins, C. (2010). Integrating silence practices into the classroom the value of quiet. Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice. 23 (3), 15-20.