Why You Need to Seek Out Silence

It’s an inescapable fact that noise is part and parcel of our everyday lives. Whether you live in a busy urban area or in the middle of nowhere, the chances of going a day without hearing any noise at all is pretty rare.

While there are some noises that you can actively minimise, whether it’s silencing alerts on your phone, turning off the radio or muting your devices, there’s plenty of noise that is much harder to escape from and that you may be so accustomed to hearing that you don’t even notice. Whether it’s the low-level hum of traffic noise in the distance, slamming doors down the road or a car alarm wailing, peripheral background noise is something we all live with. Although constant noise isn’t a problem on its own it can translate to physical problems such as increased heart rate and blood pressure; one long-term study in Canada found that continuous traffic noise accounted for an increased risk of diabetes and high blood pressure in its participants.

Constant noise can substantially add to the problem if you’re already feeling overwhelmed or anxious, which, according to the think tank Onward, 88% of UK employees did between 2020 and 2022.  When we’re stressed it triggers a stress response in the body. The sympathetic nervous system kicks into action, releasing a cascade of hormones like cortisol and adrenaline to help prepare us for action. Known as fight or flight, this heightened stress mode is fine in short, temporary bursts but quickly becomes a problem if the body repeatedly enters into it, or worse still, barely leaves it. Chronic exposure to these stress hormones then has an impact on several things including sleep, weight gain, cognitive function and even skin health.

One way to help reduce the amount of stress your body is under and improve your wellbeing is to reduce the jarring noises that are consciously or subconsciously perpetuating your body’s stress response. While a period of silence away from background noise like alerts, announcements and pinging devices (and ideally other people) is optimum, the reality is it might be too difficult to initiate. If that is the case, take small steps towards simply reducing the level of noise you encounter daily. Where possible turn off keyboard sounds and notifications on your devices, press pause on your latest podcast enjoy some silence instead and use noise-cancelling earphones where appropriate. Actively seeking out silence may be tricky to do but the rewards could be well worth it.