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The Benefit of Silence Across the Lifespan

The Benefit of Silence Across the Lifespan“Unnecessary noise is the most cruel abuse of care that can be inflicted on either the sick or the well.”  Believe it or not, that’s what Florence Nightingale said in 1859! 

Last week when I was “virtually” in Utah for the National Association of Family and Consumer Science (NEAFCS) conference, I participated in a session that was titled, “The Benefit of Silence Across the Lifespan.”  The session was presented by Laura Stanton, Ohio State University Extension Educator.  In this week’s column I am sharing large sections of an article Laura wrote.

Noise is among the most pervasive pollutants today.  It can be annoying, distracting, and painful.  On top of all that, believe it or not, Florence Nightingale was right:  noise can actually be harmful.

Noise has adverse effects on millions of people and can contribute to elevated levels of stress, mood swings, sleep loss, diminished productivity, high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, hearing loss, and a general reduction in the quality of life and opportunity for tranquility.

With “noise” having so many potential negative impacts on our health, what happens when we opt for silence? 

Silence can have profound and positive impacts on your health. For example, silence can

  • lower blood pressure
  • increase blood flow and enhance sleep
  • promote cognitive development and lead to higher academic success
  • be therapeutic for depression and dementia

Believe it or not, research has found that two minutes of silence can actually be more relaxing for than listening to “relaxing” music, based on changes in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.

Silence can be hard to find.  If you pursue it, you might choose to spend money on noise canceling headphones and silent retreats.  But silence does not have to be purchased. It is something that we can create in our lives.  Try some of these tips for finding and benefiting from silence:

  • Turn off all electronics and let others know you are in silence.
  • Schedule time to practice silence. Certain times of the day, like early morning or late night, often work better. Start with 5 minutes and increase the amount of time as you feel comfortable.
  • Find out what works for you. Some people enjoy silence as a time of deep reflection while others garden, walk, sketch, or write in silence.
  • Keep trying. For some people, silence feels unnatural. Others find it immediately meaningful. Give yourself grace to keep trying until you find what works for you.

Source:  Laura Stanton, “Noises Off: The Benefit of Silence,” Ohio State University, May 22, 2020, https://livesmartohio.osu.edu/mind-and-body/stanton-60osu-edu/noises-off-the-benefit-of-silence/

Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/silence-quiet-library-study-3810106/ (downloaded 9/29/20)

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