We’re bombarded by audio all day. In fact, I’ve read some studies that say that the world is louder today than it’s ever been in human history with noise doubling or even tripling every 30 years or so. This means that silence–true silence–is in increasingly short supply.
Neuroscientists, psychologists, cardiologists, and other specialists, confirm that noise is bad for our overall health and our brains in particular. Noise that we can’t control causes stress. Stress leads to an increase in adrenaline, increased blood pressure, and increased anxiety. Not good.
Can periods of silence help? Perhaps. Experiments with mice in completely soundproof cages showed that dead silence encouraged the growth of cell growth in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that deals with memory. That seems to indicate that silence can improve cognition.
Why? Because trying to hear something when there’s nothing to hear stimulates the auditory cortex, the art of the brain dedicated to perceiving and analyzing sound. In short, the exercise of listening to silence is good for the brain, creating something called “positive stress” or “eustress.”
The idea is nothing new. Indian yogis have understood the power of silence for thousands of years. There’s even something call Nada Yoga, “the yoga of sound.” A session of Nana Yoga involves sitting in silence and paying close attention to anything that you can hear. Not only will you stimulate your audio cortex and grow more neurons, you will become more alert to your surroundings–all things good for brain health.