September 22, 2020 - 8:00am -- lehman.488@osu.edu

As the seasonal events of fall proceed, I find myself spending lots of time in the woods.  I recently “attended” our National Extension Associate of Family and Consumer Sciences conference, it was to be in Snowbird, Utah and, as with most other events ended up being virtual.  While it was very different and challenging to learn new technology, I did find many new resources and topics of interest.  One of those actually came from a co-worker in Ohio on the need for quiet in our lives.  Here is some of the information that Laura shared.  While I knew I enjoyed the quiet, I really didn’t realize the adverse effects that noise could have.  Read on for many details.

Our lives today are full of noise and ever-present distractions and sounds. Noise is among the most pervasive pollutants today and has been identified as a public health threat by the World Health Organization (WHO). Noise can be annoying, distracting, painful, and harmful. Noise adversely affects 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.

The opposite of noise is quiet or silence. Just as too much noise can have negative impacts on your health, research has found that silence can have profound and positive impacts on your health. For example, silence:

  • lowers blood pressure
  • increases blood flow and enhances sleep
  • promotes cognitive development and leads to higher academic success
  • is therapeutic for depression and dementia

The practice of silence is the deliberate decision to withdraw from the distractions and noises around us. This practice has been embraced by different spiritual and religious traditions throughout time as a pathway to physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual renewal. As Rumi, a 13th-century Persian poet wrote, “The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear.”

A study published in Heart found that two minutes of silence is more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music, based on changes in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain. Here are some tips for finding and benefiting from silence:

  • Turn off all electronics and let others know you are in silence - this may be important for your family to understand. 
  • 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.  It may also help your family respect your moments.
  • 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.
  • You might become aware of all the noises around you. Or you might hear your own body, mind, and heart.
  • 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.

While reading through Laura’s information, I came to realize why I enjoy silence more all the time.  Whether it’s hiking or riding through the woods, the sounds of nature are so very soothing to my soul.  While I’m working, the quiet allows me to think and be creative in ways that motivate me to achieve tasks both personally and professionally.  Reading or journaling are additional ways to savor the moment and capture the lack of noise in life.  If your children are observant, they may attune to what you long for.  Take the time to explain why quiet is important to you and allow them time to experience it as well, whether it’s a car ride or a walk in the park.  There were a few resources that Laura shared - if you’d like to read more, check out the following books:

Listening below the noise: The transformative power of silence. (A.D. LeClaire)

Silence: the power of quiet in a world full of noise (T. Nhat Hanh)

Stillness speaks (E. Tolle)

Like Laura, for me, being outdoors and in silence is the perfect recipe for my mind, body, and soul to feel recharged and renewed.  In these challenging times, don’t forget to take care of yourself.  If you are not sure what recharges you, give it a try.  Start with short times in your favorite place and see if you are energized after your quiet time.  This is to be a time to look forward to, a time to savor and enjoy, the sound of silence.

Melinda Hill is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Educator and may be reached at 330-264-8722.

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