Absolute silence is possible

Silence: Why our brain needs it so badly

Our world is loud. There are noises, distractions, sources of interference everywhere. Often a lot of ado about nothing. And the constant availability via smartphone alarm does the rest. Real silence has become rare and is now a real luxury. Quite a few are now looking for seclusion and literality Outtime to recharge your batteries in the silence. You have to imagine that: Hotels and monasteries, in which guests have to hand in their smartphones at reception, are now a business model! But the thought behind it is correct: in fact, we need silence for our health as well as for our brain. Several studies confirm this ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

Definition: what is silence?

The concept of silence initially describes the absence of noises of any kind - or in short: silence, at least one that is perceived. The maximum increase of this is the colloquial "dead silence". No background noise, absolutely nothing can be heard.

This is exactly what is rare in our time and environment. There is always some kind of noise, sometimes even downright noise. Colleagues, telephones, neighbors, cars, trains, planes, construction sites, leaf blowers, lawn mowers - all sources of noise. And often annoying too. Especially since the sense of hearing cannot be consciously influenced or switched off by us and you can therefore never get used to noise. Even if you become less aware of it over time, it is still annoying. It is not for nothing that Germany has a noise protection ordinance. For this reason alone, silence is much more important to us and our brain than many people realize. "Silence, calm, peace" - this triad is no coincidence either.

The forms of silence

You have to distinguish between two types of silence:

  • Self-chosen silence in the form of a quiet environment and in the absence of disturbing noises has an extremely calming and relaxing effect on most people. This silence not only promotes our well-being, but can also enormously increase our performance and concentration (on a task).
  • Absolute silence (in the literal sense of the word), on the other hand, is perceived by most people as uncomfortable, sometimes even oppressive and frightening - especially if it lasts longer. It is not without reason that this form of isolation and silence is also used during interrogations or as (“white”) torture and for brainwashing. The victims sometimes experience thought disorders and hallucinations.

Today silence knows many forms - there is the "calm" as well as the "sea calm" or the "morning calm" and "night calm". It has also been the subject of numerous songs, films, poems and poetry. In Friedrich Nietzsche's "Also sprach Zarathustra" it says, for example: "The greatest events - these are not our loudest, but our quietest hours."

In short: Silence and absolute peace have always been important to us. Today, however, their importance is declining as the need for them grows. So it is high time to bring them back into our consciousness.

Good reasons: why is silence important?

Everyone knows the desire to escape the noise every now and then. We just want to have our peace and quiet and withdraw. But even then, few seek real silence. The television is on or the music is turned up. It would be better if you would use the silence - because that has many advantages:

Silence reduces stress

Noise is nothing more than air pollution - just louder. According to studies, it is considered a modern plague and one of the greatest health threats to our society. Indeed, it has been shown that noise can cause stress, raise our blood pressure and even increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Loud noises activate the so-called amygdala in our brain. Effect: It then releases the stress hormone cortisol more intensely - with all the classic side effects.

For example, when environmental psychologist Craig Zimring examined the stress level in a newborn ward in the hospital, he found that the louder the babies cried, the more stressed and sicker they were and the worse they slept. Silence, on the other hand, has exactly the opposite effect. One study came out: Just two minutes of absolute silence have a lowering effect on blood pressure and are more calming than listening to relaxation music.

Silence refreshes us mentally

All the (acoustic) stimuli that are constantly beating down on us are one thing above all for our brain: tiring. Ultimately, every piece of information needs to be classified and processed. And the more information there is, the more it loads our prefrontal cortex and causes our concentration to decrease rapidly. We suffer from mental exhaustion.

To make matters worse: We cannot consciously control our hearing. Our ears are always on the receiving end. If we don't want to see anything, we just close our eyes; if we don't want to smell anything, we hold our nose. But keep your ears shut? Somehow we still listen - even if it's just the sound of our hands on our ears. So silence is downright refreshing for body and mind. The pause and rest allows our minds to think through complex problems, find solutions, get creative, make better decisions.

Even here, just a few minutes of acoustic time-out have an enormous effect. According to the Attention Restoration Theory (PDF), this short period of time is sufficient for our brain to be able to sort itself and to have all of its seven senses together again.

Silence improves cognitive performance

Especially those who use silence regularly and over a longer period of time improve their cognitive performance enormously. For example, the psychologist Richard Davidson from the University of Wisconsin-Madison has been able to show for several years that meditation exercises sharpened the participants' attention after only three months: the test subjects recognized numbers that were hidden between rows of letters much faster than before the regular ones Silence. So you are able to process information faster and better if you build silence into your everyday life over a longer period of time.

Silence makes the brain grow

Even if none of them will burst their heads: Silence actually stimulates the growth of our gray cells. When researchers examined the effects of various sounds on the brains of mice, they found that just two hours of silence a day was enough for the hippocampus to produce new cells. To do this, you have to know that precisely this region of the brain is largely responsible for our memory, our emotions and what we have learned. Or, to put it simply, silence makes you smart.

Silence makes you productive

Rocket science does not recognize that rest makes us more productive. In everyday work, however, it is all the more difficult to seek and find silence. Because for that you would have to - for a while at least - ignore emails and WhatsApp messages, turn off the phone and even stop the office gossip in the coffee kitchen. In the opinion of Cornelius König from the University of Saarbrücken, however, that is exactly what you should do once a day. A study by the industrial and organizational psychologist showed that managers who consciously take a break from e-mail, telephone and office calls have a noticeable increase in the quality of the work done during this time.

Even more: they would also perceive the rest of the working day as more productive and more satisfying. "Just one hour of concentrated work without the interruption of e-mails, telephone and colleagues significantly increases the quality of and satisfaction with demanding work," says König. This “quiet hour” gives you the good feeling you have to take home with you, that you have something important off the table that would otherwise have been left lying around due to constant distractions. But the psychologist openly admits that the principle of the silent hour is not always that easy to implement in practice. It takes the necessary self-discipline and, of course, the ability and permission for employees to mute incoming calls for an hour.

Silence keeps us sane

Clearly: noise is a health risk. As early as the 1970s, government agencies and accident insurance institutions in Germany issued comprehensive regulations on noise protection in the workplace. In this tradition stands today Ordinance on the protection of employees from hazards caused by noise and vibrations (or in even more beautiful official German: die Noise and vibration occupational safety regulations), which wants to save us from too loud crackling and hammering. The reason is obvious: According to the WHO report, millions of healthy years of life are being lost in the European Union alone. For hundreds of thousands of Europeans, noise leads to heart disease, tinnitus, sleep disorders and cognitive disorders in children.

Street noise in particular is identified as the culprit - and it is omnipresent, even in many offices. In extreme cases, this can even influence your choice of job: Do you decide - all other things being equal - to work in the city center or in a remote industrial park? For people who are already sick from too much noise, the quiet of the location could be a real criterion.

Silence makes us creative

Brain research now knows what is known as the Default Mode Network (also known as the “idle state network”). The cryptic term conceals certain brain regions, which are particularly active when our upper room is not busy and is not particularly stimulated by external stimuli. It's like daydreaming: We can then not only watch our thoughts wander and transfigure - these also constantly form new connections. Or in short: we get creative. The genius Albert Einstein, the director Woody Allen and the author Joanne K. Rowling were and are not just avowed fans of daydreaming. According to their own statements, all three owe their best ideas to letting their thoughts wander.

If you are urgently looking for a solution, you should NOT focus on it, advises brain researcher Andreas Fink, for example. With the help of brain scans, he was able to show that a slow brain rhythm is more important for creative processes. Simply thinking of nothing in the quiet offers enough space to creatively deal with upcoming tasks and their solutions.

Psychology: Silence is the new luxury

Just observe your surroundings to see who can still bear the silence today ... Instead, we plug headphones into our ears, turn on the television or radio or fiddle with our smartphones.

This becomes particularly clear in meetings or on evenings together: suddenly there is silence - and hardly anyone can take it. The silence - it screams at some and forces us to say something. Sometimes useful, often bullshit - the main thing is that the (embarrassing) silence is gone.

We actually know better than that. The concepts of “quiet time” in the morning or meditation are anything but new, but their positive effects - beyond self-perception and self-regulation - are all the more proven.

Precisely for this reason, everyone should recognize silence for what it is: a luxury that has become rare. Everywhere we are surrounded by endless stimuli, it rattles, buzzes, rings, beeps, whistles and roars around us. Not only should you be able to endure silence, you should seek it out in a targeted manner. Withdraw, go to quiet places and just listen to the silence. You will only notice how good this is when you regularly indulge yourself in silence, even if it is only for a few minutes. Because the many advantages that silence brings have long been explored.

Quiet quotes: There is strength in calm

  • “True intelligence works in silence. It is the silence in which creativity and problem solutions can be found. "(Eckhart Tolle)
  • "Silence, I noticed, is something that you can actually hear." (Haruki Murakami)
    "The silence is more eloquent than words." (Thomas Carlyle)
  • "You have to have sleepless nights to know something about the secret of the great silence at midnight." (Ferdinand Ebner)
  • "My personal hobbies are reading, listening to music and silence." (Edith Sitwell)

Silence is a business model

Noise distracts, makes you sick and unproductive and worsens the quality of life. Consequently, noise reduction is also an important economic issue. You could also say: Silence is a business model - one with a future. It starts with street noise, the biggest noise maker in the world. It could soon be noticeably contained - if the comparatively quiet electric cars prevail. Noise barriers and whispered asphalt already exist today.

At the same time, researchers are working on transferring perforated walls, as we know them from concert halls or lecture halls, into the engines of means of transport. They could then also be used as sound absorbers in airplanes, ships and cars - and absorb the noise. Until then, you can hang new types of curtains in your home or office. Some time ago researchers and textile designers developed translucent curtain fabrics that absorb sound - in other words, noise protection curtains. Maybe you can use it too?

Tips for more peace and quiet in everyday life

It seems extremely difficult if not impossible to integrate silence into hectic life. The noise and rush of everyday life is too omnipresent. The good news is: It doesn't have to be that difficult! We have a few simple tips that you can use to bring more silence into your everyday life immediately:

  • Use earplugs
    Do you urgently need silence, especially at work or at home, when the neighbors are renovating with a drill and hammer? Then put on earplugs. Plug in, noise out. Ringing telephones, clattering keyboards, gossiping colleagues or noisy construction sites can be perfectly hidden. Of course, you isolate yourself from your surroundings - which is not necessarily friendly, but in this case it is wanted and necessary.
  • Take a walk
    What is meant here is not a short walk along the main road or in the overcrowded city center. Go into the forest, in a quiet field, in a nearby park, somewhere in nature where at most you can hear a few birds chirping. Such a walk provides soothing silence and helps to relax.
  • Switch off
    This is meant literally in this case. Telephone, radio, television, computer - just turn off all the things that are causing noise around you. Sit down and listen to the silence. If this is difficult for you, you can read a book. If you regularly switch off the background noise around you, you create additional silence yourself.
  • Adjust your rhythm
    It is particularly noisy everywhere at peak times. Cars are buzzing and honking on the streets, people are talking and making phone calls in full buses and trains, and all colleagues make more noise than an airplane. So why not come earlier and take advantage of the quiet of a still empty office? Or stay for two hours in the evening when everyone else is gone? If it is possible to adjust your rhythm in this way, you can enjoy silence far more often.
  • Set up a relaxation room
    This is possible both at work and at home. A space that is entirely geared towards silence. The rule here is: no noise, no conversations, no ringing or vibrating smartphone. Just you and the silence.

What other readers have read about it

[Photo credit: Karrierebibel.de]