10 reasons to enjoy the silence

Jane Murphy / 04 January 2017

Are you frequently surrounded by noise? Here's why it's important to actively seek out some peace and quiet – and savour it – as often as possible.

Read Bill Bailey on the joys of silence

You'll feel more motivated 

Ever feel you need complete quiet to get a job done properly? You could be right. Even low-level noise such as the faint hum of machinery or quiet conversation is enough to significantly lower motivation levels and distract us from the task in hand, according to a study at Cornell University. Researchers found that workers in a mildly noisy office made 40 per cent fewer attempts to solve a difficult puzzle than those who were assigned a quiet environment.

You'll reconnect with nature 

Always take time to stop and smell the roses? Good for you. But do make sure you pause and listen to the birds, too. Ever-increasing levels of man-made background noise make us oblivious to the uplifting sounds of birdsong, trickling water and rustling leaves, warn US environmental scientists. We're so bombarded with noise that we unwittingly screen out the sounds that cheer us up and help us engage with the natural world.

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You'll lower your blood pressure 

Long-term exposure to loud noise – particularly from road and air traffic – can raise your blood pressure, increasing risk of heart disease and stroke. One recent large-scale study, for example, found that people living on noisy streets with night-time levels of at least 50 decibels had a six per cent higher risk of developing high blood pressure compared to those living on quieter streets. So if you live in a noisy area, do look into sound-proofing your home.

10 lifestyle changes to lower your blood pressure

You'll boost your memory 

Silence gives your overstimulated brain time to recuperate and regenerate. The evidence? A 2013 study, published in the journal Brain Structure & Function found that when mice were exposed to two-hour periods of silence each day, they developed fresh cells in the hippocampus – the area of the brain associated with memory, learning and emotion.

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You'll be more intelligent 

While we're on the subject of boosting brain power, it's worth stopping to consider the benefits of meditation. Regularly sitting in silence and 'stilling the mind' encourages a process called gyrification – the folding of the cerebral cortex – which allows the brain to process information quicker and more effectively, US scientists have found.

Learn more about meditation

You'll be slimmer 

Traffic noise in particular has been linked to a bigger waistline. In fact, every five-decibel noise increase above 45 decibels corresponds to an extra 2mm on our waists, says a recent Swedish study. It's thought noise exposure increases production of the stress hormone cortisol, which encourages fat deposition around the midriff.

10 ways to trick yourself slimmer

You'll protect your heart 

Your risk of heart attack increases with the amount of road and rail traffic noise to which you're exposed, say German researchers. The reason? Traffic noise triggers complex psychological and physiological stress reactions, which put the cardiovascular system under attack.

Find out more about what stress does to your health

It will help you relax 

You don't need us to tell you that some much-needed peace and quiet can encourage relaxation. But you may be surprised to learn that just two minutes of silence can prove to be even more calming than listening to relaxing music, according to a study published in the journal Heart.

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You'll be less irritable 

If you're repeatedly exposed to loud background noise – particularly sounds such as traffic and building works over which you have no control – you may suffer from a condition known as 'noise annoyance'. Everyone's response to noise varies, but you may well feel irritated, as well as powerless and invaded. Aside from taking practical long-term steps to address the issue, it's important to get away from the noise as often as you can.

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You'll protect your hearing 

Excessive noise, be it loud music or someone digging up the road, can put your hearing at risk. In fact, listening to any sound at high volume – that's more than 89 decibels – for more than five hours a week can cause permanent damage over time, according to Action on Hearing Loss.

10 ways to protect your hearing

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