In silence lies strength recreation and meditation

"The greatest revelation is silence", these are the words of the Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu. We often only notice how beautiful and relieving silence can be once it is there. When the neighbor stops mowing the lawn or the kids are finally in bed. Silence is a basic requirement for a healthy life. Because recovery, healthy sleep, inner contemplation and meditation are impossible without the necessary rest.

In today's world it is unfortunately far too seldom really quiet. We are constantly exposed to sounds and noise from everywhere. Most of the time we do not even notice how high the noise level is around us. Reason enough to consciously deal with silence for once. In this article we explore the effect of silence on us and why it plays such an important role in meditation. What is the difference between inner and outer stillness and how can we combine the two in a meaningful way??

Noise causes the brain to sound the alarm

A crackling sound in the bushes. An unexpected rumble. Perhaps a possible aggressor? Unknown or unpleasant noises immediately put our brain on alert, even if we can objectively assess that a situation is not actually threatening. Our instincts nevertheless prepare us for a possible dangerous situation. Our body's stress response is set in motion. We become more efficient and alert for a short time.

This mechanism is active even when we sleep. Our brain continuously scans the surrounding sounds for possible dangers. If it is too loud at night, it quickly robs us of sleep. We cannot fall asleep or sleep less restfully. [1]

Noise pollution – Where can we still find silence??

Our modern life is actually constantly accompanied by a large background noise. Just close your eyes for a moment, where you are – and listen to the surrounding sounds. The noise of the street, a radio in the background, construction noise, children's noise or the smartphone in your pocket buzzing for attention. It is seldom really quiet. A permanently high noise level also means permanently high stress and can make you really ill. It is not without reason that the World Health Organization (WHO) considers exposure to various sources of noise to be one of the major health hazards of the 21st century. Century.[2]

One could almost think that silence has been lost to us in our fast-paced world. Many people are therefore specifically looking for time out from all the noise. A trip to nature, for example, can work wonders. Even monasteries often offer days of silence and people take long journeys to find rest there. But we can also cultivate silence for ourselves at home. For example, through silent meditation.

Silence – A rejuvenating cure for the brain?

The effects of silence have not long been the subject of research. However, initial scientific findings suggest the positive effects that periods of acoustic silence can have on us. In 2015, for example, a group of scientists studied the effect of different sounds on mice. Ten mice each were exposed to one of five soundscapes for two hours. The researchers studied the effect of noise, calls of young animals, piano music, silence, and normal laboratory noises.

In all mice, except those exposed to noise, an increased production of immature neurons in the brain was observed in the first 24 hours. Immature neurons are needed to respond mentally to new environmental stimuli. After one week, the observed effect was only noticeable in the mice that spent two hours each day in silence. Researchers therefore ame that a greater number of new nerve cells are created during periods of silence, which has a positive effect on our mental receptivity. Although the experiment was conducted only on mice, the results can probably be applied to humans as well. [3]

Rest and relaxation in nature

Evolutionarily, humans have developed in unison with nature. The peaceful background noises we hear while walking in a light summer forest or in a green spring meadow do not disturb the peace we feel in such places. You could say that natural sounds such as birdsong or the pattering of raindrops are part of the sound of silence. Today, these same sounds of nature are enjoyed on YouTube, Spotify, and the like. as a means of relaxation of great popularity. Such natural background sounds are not classified as a danger by our alarm system. We can surrender to silence and relax.

You can certainly confirm from your own experience that spending time in nature has a relaxing effect. Scientific findings even suggest that a trip to nature strengthens our memory function, at least for a short time. A similar effect can be observed as in the mouse experiment in the previous section. The scientific explanation: If we are exposed to too many stimuli, our mental capacity is eventually exhausted. In a low-stimulus environment with few distractions, these resources can be recharged. A stay in nature fulfills these conditions. [4]

Silent meditation as a counterpoint

Traditional forms of meditation deal a lot with silence and its effect on us humans. When meditating we can experience two types of stillness. External silence. Inner silence. The external silence is the surrounding us. Nature, with its own sound. With all those sounds that our brain does not classify as dangerous, but relaxing, and where our alarm system is not activated.

The outer silence allows us to look inward. In our world of thoughts and feelings there is often as much going on as in a busy big city. Meditation gradually helps us to silence the inner noise and sort out our thoughts and feelings. We reach a peaceful inner silence. From meditation we transfer the calm meditative mind to other areas of our lives. With such a mindset we can better face all challenges. Are not so easily thrown off track. One speaks of a mindful lifestyle. [5]

You may want to try meditation yourself to achieve more inner calmness and tranquility? The sonamedic app offers you a wide range of meditations for all situations in life. Tips and tricks to get you started can be found here.

It's all in the mix – experiencing silence more intensively

Music and silence

As we have already learned in this article, periods of silence make our brains more receptive to new stimuli. The effect is not one-sided, however, as Italian researchers observed. Actually, they wanted to study the effect of different pieces of music on the cardiovascular system, i.e. on breathing, blood prere and heartbeat. They incorporated a two-minute period of silence into each piece of music to test the effect of musical stimuli against a low-stimulus situation. In the phases in which the pieces of music were paused, the test persons showed a clear lowering of respiratory frequency, heartbeat and blood prere. So they relaxed.

Surprisingly, the relaxation effect was even significantly greater than in measurements taken at the beginning of the experiment, which had been carried out before the first piece of music as a control. So the music had a reinforcing effect on the relaxing effect of silence. The cause of this phenomenon lies in the functioning of the nerve cells in the brain that process acoustic stimuli. If there is a continuous acoustic stimulus, the processing nerve cells slowly retract. We perceive the stimulus less intensively over time. [6]

Use in medicine

This effect is also responsible, for example, for the fact that some people can sleep with the television on. The sounds of the television are no longer perceived as acutely threatening. At the same time, however, the background noise has another effect. It drowns out sounds that we would otherwise perceive as danger. One of the reasons why music helps many people fall asleep.

In medicine, the drowning out of disturbing sounds is used, for example, in the treatment of tinnitus. Thus, the disturbing tinnitus is no longer directly perceptible to patients. [7]

Sourcebook

[1] Hopfgarten von, Anna: Silence please, in brain and mind: silence. Why our brain needs acoustic timeouts.

[2] WHO: WHO guidelines on environmental noise for the European Region. Online.

[3] Kirste, Imke/ Nicola, Zeina / Kronenberg, Golo / Walker, Tara /Liu, Robert / Kempermann, Gerd: Is silence golden?? Effects of auditory stimuli and their absence on adult hippocampal neurogenesis, 2013, online.

[4] Hopfgarten von, Anna: Silence please, in brain and mind: silence. Why our brain needs acoustic timeouts.

[5] Polenski, Hinnerk: Why Silence is Important in Meditation, 16.11.2019, Online.

[6] Bernadi, Luciano / Porta, Cesare / Casucci, Gaia / Balsamo, Rosella / Bernadi, Nicolo / Fogari, Roberto / Sleight, Peter: Dynamic Interactions Between Musical, Cardiovascular, and Cerebral Rhythms in Humans, 2009, Online.

[7] Hopfgarten von, Anna: Silence please, in Brain and Mind: Silence. Why our brain needs acoustic time-outs.

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