Hello, my little lightbulbs!
How are you?
How is autumn treating you?
Are you enjoying the warm, cosy evenings or dreading the icy, rainy weather? I myself am enjoying it so far. I have a lot of love for autumn. It’s a very mild season in the UK, mild here meaning a lack of extremity. It’s not too hot, or too cold. It doesn’t get dark too early. It doesn’t rain too much. We haven’t been without sun for SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) to hit fully yet. And on the flip side, it’s beautiful. The leaves are golden, auburn and brown. Squirrels are more sociable as they make their final arrangements before hibernation. Jumpers are now climate appropriate which means weighted, comfortable relaxation. It’s also root vegetable season! That means soups, scouse, chilli, curries… hearty, warming meals that make your soul smile.
I’ve been meaning to check in for a little while but was stuck on which topic to write about. I have a few things I want to talk about with you and couldn’t decide which one to start with! Eventually, sat alone by candlelight in a cafe on Lark Lane, I chose to write about silence and why it’s important. Now that probably sounds very ‘shushing librarian’ of me, maybe it is. Nonetheless, I’ve been coming to a slow but steady realisation that moments of silence, or at least quiet, in life are important.
This wasn’t always the case. As a child, when my mum would plead for a minute of quiet, I couldn’t understand what her issue was- I’d only been maniacally cackling at my Sims, the pets or a fart joke for about three hours… like? How was she not laughing? And why wasn’t my sister overwhelmed with gratitude at my bestowing endless ‘did you know’ facts on her the second she got home? Also, why was my dad constantly shouting ‘NOISE POLLUTION!’?
Maybe with age, or more time spent in reflection, or my job; or all of those combined- I’ve come to understand (as well as become aware of the irony of my dad shouting about noise) the necessity for silence. When I say silence, I mean the absence of sound and/or the abstinence from speech; and I’m going to explain why I think it’s a big deal and when it should be a priority.
1. Aids sleep
Sleep is the bomb. 7 hours minimum is essential for just standard physical and mental maintenance. A 2018 study explains that not getting enough sleep links to things such as obesity and type-2 diabetes, impaired immune functioning, cardiovascular disease, mood disorders, dementia and loneliness.
We talk a lot about reducing blue light and visual stimuli before going to bed, e.g. not watching TV too close to bedtime etc. But, sound is often overlooked as stimuli and it’s something that can very heavily impact your ability to fall asleep and to stay asleep. If sleep is something you struggle with, try getting yourself into a quiet space around 30 minutes before your goal sleep time and, over time, you may find this useful!
2. Improves memory
As this is not my area of expertise, I did some research and found that silence can actually improve your memory! Two hours of silence creates new cells (the fancy word for this is neurogenesis) in the memory part of the brain, the hippocampus, which is also linked to emotion regulation and learning (Kirste et al, 2013). Bernardi (2005) found that just two minutes of silence works better than soft music, with beneficial changes to blood pressure and circulation in the brain.
3. Increases mental clarity
As Claxton (1999) states, ‘silence allows us to be present, to ruminate and be intentional’ (Brown, 2019).
Less stimulus leads to easier focus. If you can concentrate on the present without being distracted, then your capacity to be mindful will increase. A brain that is less clouded by screaming radio ads, the consistent hum of dozens of conversations within an office or canteen, or even the acapella of your favourite singer, will be a clearer brain. Obviously, there is a time and place for everything, and I’m not convincing you to live a life of silent solitude in a distant cave. But when was the last time you sat in the quiet? How long has it been since you haven’t heard another voice, be it real or virtual? Maybe an intentional five minutes of quiet here and there would be worth a go.
4. Nudges you closer to yourself
With decreased stimulus and increased mental clarity, you’re able to be more present. In this space that you’ve created from mental clarity, you might hear the quiet whispers of your body and mind. Their little voices, so often drowned out by everyday life, might just be audible enough for you to pay attention to them. Are you aching somewhere? Is there something on your mind that needs to be addressed? Did you stop to appreciate how amazing and accomplished you are today? Being able to listen to your own body and mind, without the influence of external forces, helps you to cultivate a loving home within yourself. This is something that Najwa Zebian talks about in her book, Homecoming.
5. Makes for better interpersonal relationships
Being closer to yourself almost automatically cultivates better relationships with other people. On top of this, silence within a relationship can do absolute wonders. Just think about the last time you argued with someone else. What would have happened if instead of reacting, you waited? If you gave yourself some silence? It doesn’t even need to be an argument, being in someone else’s company doesn’t need to be filled with conversation at all times. In fact, that can devalue the relationship if you’re anxious about applying constant verbal filler. In the wise, wise words of Mrs Mia Wallace:
“That’s when you know you’ve found somebody special. When you can just shut the f*ck up for a minute and comfortably enjoy the silence.”
There are a lot more benefits to silence and I think trying to incorporate little pockets of it throughout the day is a great method for maintaining a healthy, present, and clear existence. It’s not easy to obtain in daily life, between work conversations, kids, pinging phones and the general hum of our own thoughts – but just because something is difficult doesn’t mean that it’s not worth giving a go.
I hope that you manage to get some moments of silence today and, if you do, let me know how you find it!
Psych Central, The Hidden Benefits of Silence https://psychcentral.com/blog/the-hidden-benefits-of-silence#self-awareness
NCBI, The Extraordinary Importance of Sleep https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6281147/
NHS, Seasonal Affective Disorder https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad/overview/
Kirste, I., Nicola, Z., Kronenberg, G., Walker, T. L., Liu, R. C., & Kempermann, G. (2015). Is silence golden? Effects of auditory stimuli and their absence on adult hippocampal neurogenesis. Brain structure & function, 220(2), 1221–1228. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00429-013-0679-3
Brown, Paula. (2019). When silence is golden.Early Years Educator 21(2):28-30,