Neuroscience and the powerful benefits of silence

1 hour into my first day, I took off my earphones and stuffed them in my pocket.

The sound of absolute silence filled my ears, interrupted occasionally by the deafening sound of water crashing between rocks as rivers made their way towards the sea.

I am reliving this memory as I write this, and I relive it every time things get “too much” in my life.

The date was October-end 2014, and I was solo-backpacking the West Highland Way in Scotland.

I was walking 25-35km every day in the Scottish mountains in the “low season”. This meant that there were days when I didn’t come across a single human being.

I was relishing and enjoying the absolute silence every single day.

The earphones stayed in my bag throughout the rest of the week: I just wanted to enjoy the silence and the sound of my own footsteps, the rain falling, the deer calling, and the water flowing.

Silence is something we almost never get the pleasure of in today’s high-paced lives.

We are constantly bombarded with sounds, human and urban, virtually continuously from the time we awake till the time we fall asleep.

Many of us (myself included) have even resorted to earplugs every night in a futile attempt at “sleeping in silence”.

I’m not just writing this because silence is something I “enjoy”:

As this article (link below) discusses, research in Neuroscience has revealed that being constantly bombarded with “noise” is linked to a variety of ailments, including high blood pressure, insomnia, and continuously high levels of stress hormones.

Some of the most interesting findings are that:

Silence triggers the brain to produce new neuron connections, especially in the hippocampus (the part of the brain responsible for memory consolidation).

Of course, silence also remains the foundation of mindfulness and meditation, practices which I always recommend and which have been proven through research to have an immense beneficial impact on various aspects of our mental and physical health.

I seek silence by waking up before sunrise, on my long runs (no music), or by doing long multi-day hiking trips on my own.

You can even find silence by arriving to work 10min early and sitting in your car, or going to bed 10min earlier than usual and using earplugs.

Find the time and the way, and trust me: once you savour the taste of true silence, you will seek to make it a daily ritual and start reaping the benefits.