The House Was Very Quiet When I Got Home The Need for Silence in a Noisy World

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The Need for Silence in a Noisy World

It is very clear that we are living in a world of terrible noise and it is getting worse day by day. Loud, unwanted noise disturbs us everywhere we go. When we enter elevators, malls and restaurants, we are surrounded by musak. I recently had lunch at a popular restaurant and found the background music so loud that it interfered with my normal conversation and enjoyment of my meal. When I asked the waitress if she could turn off the music or at least turn it down, she said, “I don’t think we can.” Certainly we as people are still in charge of volume control.

When you add lawnmowers, snow blowers, leaf blowers, jack hammers, jet engines, transport trucks, and horns and buzzers of all types and descriptions, you have constant noise and irritation. You jump out of your chair when an ad comes on at the decibel level of a jet, even while watching a television program at a reasonable volume level.

Even though our noisy world is making us physically and mentally ill, we see a cultural acceptance. We cannot live without background noise. We have friends who turn on the television when they wake up in the morning and keep it on throughout the day. If it’s not on, the house is very quiet. My former high school students used to tell me that the first thing they did when they got home after school was turn up their CD player as loud as their parents would tolerate.

Cornell University recently conducted a study to determine the impact of noise on employees in an open area office space where people are constantly exposed to fax machines, telephones, office chatter, shredding machines, etc. The results of the test showed that the proportion of workers in the open sector was higher. Adrenaline levels in their urine. Adrenaline is released from the body when under stress. It prepares us for fight or flight. When these employees were compared to their own office spaces, the results were startling. People in quiet, self-contained workspaces don’t have the same level of adrenaline in their urine. They were more relaxed and less stressed.

A puzzle demanding attention and concentration was given to both groups of employees. The open area group was found to be less diligent in solving the puzzle in that they were easily frustrated and left much sooner than the quiet office group. The study also found that employees in quiet offices slept better at night, had better digestion, were far less irritable at home, and felt better at the end of their workday than employees in open-concept offices. Noise appears to affect focus, productivity, and general physical and mental health. Noise increases stress levels which can lead to frustration, anger and strained relationships. We should start friendship with silence.

How to make silence a friend

While we have very little control over ambient noise at large, we do have control over our own private environment. This is where we begin to cultivate the friendship of silence.

* Make a conscious commitment to experience and appreciate silence.

* Go for a nature walk. Let peace rest your soul.

* Turn off all noise producing devices when you are alone in your residence. Start with fifteen minutes of silence and gradually increase the duration.

* Learn how to meditate once or twice a day and take a ten minute meditation period. Gradually increase your meditation time.

* On your way to work, turn off your car radio and drive quietly.

* Go camping for a night. Find a quiet campground where they don’t allow people to blast their music without regard for others. I usually go camping by myself for a week every year to be alone and quiet in the outdoors. It has become something I look forward to.

* Go to the lake at sunset and hire a canoe. As sunset approaches and darkness approaches, paddle slowly along the shore taking in the tranquil sights and soft sounds of nature.

* Quietly listen to your breath. Realize the silent rhythm of life.

* Go outside and look at the night sky before retiring. You will soon notice another universal rhythm that many are unfamiliar with. Let the night sky and darkness embrace you and soothe you as you prepare for a good night’s rest.

* When you read a book, do it quietly. Many of us read during music or television commercials. Try silence. You will grow to love it.

Soon you’ll begin to appreciate the quiet periods you’ve built into your day and long for more. You’ll quickly find yourself becoming more relaxed and less stressed, even in our noisy world. You will have made a precious new friend of silence, a friend that can comfort, heal and calm your soul. What a gift you may have given yourself.

Be still and learn the restorative power of stillness.

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