So, about quiet.
Last week I wrote about noise and its harmful effects — most notably that noise can stress us out, and sustained stress isn’t good for us. Noise also can be a dangerous or eroding distraction sometimes. Some noise can, even, cause hearing loss.
It stands to reason, then, that if noise can be bad for us, silence — or, at least, periods of quiet time — might be good for us? I know: You science people wonder about my use of over-simple reason sometimes. I do, too, so I usually check it with research.
Here’s something I found when I went to a favorite magazine, “Scientific American,” for advice about health and quiet:
• Our brains really do need “down time.” They’re so full — and being filled — most times that we have to, consciously, look for ways to clear out this “cerebral congestion.”
• Being purposefully quiet is one way to clear our heads.
• And, as I suspected, this quiet-time decongestion is good for us: “Downtime replenishes the brain’s stores of attention and motivation, encourages productivity and creativity, and is essential to both achieve our highest levels of performance and simply form stable memories in everyday life.” (Scientific American, Oct. 15, 2013)
That sounds nice. I think I’d like to be productive and creative, to achieve my highest level of performance. Guess that means I’ll have to shut up sometimes.
Funny, but many of us do not know how to be silent. Moreover, many of us do not want to be silent.
I grew up with something always on — the television, the radio. Constant noise is our societal norm. Ever notice how difficult it is to find a restaurant without video wallpaper or, even, an elevator without its tell-tale music? Something is always ON.
So that’s the don’t-know-how-to aspect of silence. Being without noise would be novel for most of us. If we don’t know how to navigate the grocery store without its satellite songs playing overhead, how could we stand silence anywhere?