Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Into the Silence

Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom - Francis Bacon

Silence is exhilarating at first - as noise is - but there is a sweetness to silence outlasting exhilaration, akin to the sweetness of listening and the velvet of sleep - Edward Hoagland

Leaf blowers, trucks with back up beeps, screeching tires, honking horns accost us daily. How can we find ways to participate in silence to nurture the brain?

During a 2013 study, Imke Kirste, a biologist at Duke University, studied the effects of noise on mice. She discovered the absence of sound prompted a higher level of sensitivity and alertness in the test group. Kirste is pursing potential applications for the therapeutic use of silence. 

Findings published in the journal, Brain, Structure, and Function, found that rats experiencing two hours of silence daily developed new cells in the hippocampus, a key brain region associated with learning, memory and emotion. 

Rachel and Stephen Kaplan explained their ideas of "developed attention restoration" theory. They found the brain can restore its resources when individuals spend time in environments with low levels of sensory input. 

This includes the stillness found when walking alone in nature and during times of silence. The brain can let down its sensory guard.

They published their findings in the 1980 book, The Experience of Nature: A Psychological Perspective. 

While noise can cause stress and tension, silence releases tension in the brain and the body. 

In 2011, the Finish tourism board ran a campaign promoting the “silence” received by visiting their scenic country. Along with photos of awe-inspiring landscapes, they used the slogan “Silence, Please.”

Two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to easy music.
The brain's default mode activates when individuals engage in what scientists refer to as “self-generated cognition,” such as daydreaming, meditating, fantasizing about the future, or just letting the mind wander.

When the brain finds release from external stimuli, we can tap into our inner flow of thoughts, emotions, memories, and ideas. Engaging this default network helps us to discover the meaning of our experiences. We find our creativity and empathize with others as we reflect on our mental and emotional states. 

Chaim Potok felt silence could be the ultimate time to learn. He said, “I’ve begun to realize that you can listen to silence and learn from it. It has a quality and a dimension all its own.”

Find ways to break away from the noise and distractions that stagnate in the mind. 

Take a stroll into the silence. 

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