Girl (3-5) holding finger to lips, indicating ‘quiet’

If you live in an urban city, you would know that silence is hard to come by. The hustle and bustle of the city life is detrimental not only to our physical self but also to our brains.

How does Silence Help?

Studies now suggest that silence may have more beneficial effects than previously thought. More sound increases the levels of stress hormones, even if the person is asleep; as sound waves reach the brain. It is said that if you live in noisy environments, there is a likelihood of elevated stress levels. In fact, children who are constantly exposed to noise develop a stress response which makes them ignore noise including the noises they should be paying attention to. In 2013, in a study done on mice, it was found that when the mice had exposure to two hours of silence a day; new cells in the hippocampus were developed. Silence helped the new generated cells to become functioning neurons and integrate with the system. This means that silence actually helps the brain to grow.

This is why Finland has been marketing ‘silence’ to its tourist visitors, making it a selling point. The country has made silence one of the attractions, and instead of looking at empty spaces as bereft of people, you’re now actually looking at things the different way. And there is a good reason that this will work.
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How does Silence Effect our Brain?

The brain is allowed to internalize as well as evaluate information actively during periods of silence. In fact, in a study conducted in 2001, it showed that even when the brain was apparently resting in the default mode, it was actually active in evaluating as well as internalizing information. In another study in 2002, published in Psychological Science, it was seen that children who are exposed more to sound, can learn to ignore it. The problem is that they learn to ignore all types of sounds, including the good ones, like speeches or alarm calls.

A follow up research also found that the brain gets into this state when self reflection is done on one’s personality or characteristics. During the resting period of the brain, internal as well as external information is integrated into a conscious workspace. This was stated by Moran and his colleagues during this study done by Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

The brain gets space to process things when it is not disturbed by noise or by tasks which are goal oriented. It is this time that the brain discovers its place both in the internal as well as the external world. This also helps in thinking of profound things more imaginatively.

Silence releases tension and is even better than music. It increases motivational levels and decreases error making. It helps cognitive functions. All these points made the tourist board of Finland adopt Silence as a selling point, as Finland is a vast empty space. Their campaign marketed silence as a product. This was entirely new as a concept but it sold extremely well as people were and are attracted towards the reprieve that silence offers.

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