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Posts Tagged ‘silence’

Dark snowy night with trees covered in snow
Photo by u0422u0430u0442u044cu044fu043du0430 u0427u0435u0440u043du044bu0448u043eu0432u0430ud83cudf52 on Pexels.com

One of my favorite things about the winter are the snowy days and nights. I’ll put on my cross-country skis and go out for a few hours, not see a car in sight, and appreciate the silence. I feel sometimes like I’m in the wilderness during a snowstorm, and there is something very relaxing about it. The ephemeral darkness and silence of a snowstorm should be taken advantage of, as these qualities have health benefits that shouldn’t be overlooked. Too much noise and light can be detrimental to our health and well-being.

Noise pollution is common if you live in the cities or suburbs, or next to a busy road if you live in a rural area. Noise comes from traffic, sirens, industry, construction work, and can come from our own homes including our TVs, phones, radios, appliances, etc. What are some of the health consequences of being exposed to too much noise? Research suggests that too much noise can promote hearing loss, tinnitus, and hypersensitivity to sound. It can also cause or exacerbate cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, sleep disturbances, stress, mental health and cognition problems, including memory impairment and attention deficits, childhood learning delays, and low birth weight.

Conversely, there are many health benefits to silence; it lowers your blood pressure, decreases your heart rate, steadies your breathing, reduces muscle tension and increases focus and cognition. Silence can also help us have more profound thoughts, stronger relationships, increased creativity, and improved communication skills.

What can you do? Try to sit in silence and practice mindfulness one minute per day and build up to twice a day once you are comfortable. Some people are really challenged by this, especially if they are used to noise, or being on their phones. Extroverts might have a harder time with this than introverts. Eventually, build up to 15 minutes per day, and you will feel calmer and more relaxed. You could also try going for a walk alone without music, staring out the window and watching birds, or drinking your morning coffee or tea without your phone, TV or other devices.

Author: Dan Remley PhD, MSPH Field Specialist, Food, Nutrition, and Wellness, Ohio State University Extension, remley.4@osu.edu

Reviewer: Laura Stanton, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Warren County, stanton.60@osu.edu

Sources:

Stephanie Dutchen. Harvard Health. The Effects of Noise on Health. Accessed on 12/12/22 at https://hms.harvard.edu/magazine/viral-world/effects-noise-health

Cleveland Clinic. Health Essentials. An Ode to Silence: Why you Need Silence in Your Life. Accessed on 12/12/22 at https://health.clevelandclinic.org/why-you-need-more-silence-in-your-life/

Patrice Powers-Barker. An introduction to Mindfulness. Access on 12/12/22 at ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-5243

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Last year, I transformed into a self-proclaimed bird nerd. The change started in the spring of 2020 when I started working from home because of COVID. I placed my desk next to a window and in April, I noticed a robin building a nest. Watching the robin sit on her nest for hours upon hours was fascinating and I was quickly hooked.

In May, bluebirds visited my suburban backyard for the first time and after putting up a bluebird house, we hosted the pair of bluebirds and their 3 adorable babies several weeks later. I was fascinated by the whole process, from the nesting, feeding, and successful fledging (developing wing feathers that are large enough for flight). I cheered the first day the babies flew out of their box and also experienced sadness when they left their house for good. My sorrow was quickly replaced with joy when a pair of Baltimore orioles passed through for a couple of days. I was enthralled watching the colorful birds eat the grape jelly I set out. Summer brought ruby-throated hummingbirds and warblers. This winter, I am enjoying a barred owl who lives nearby and occasionally graces me with his majestic presence.

Picture of a Barred Owl by Laura Stanton.
Barred Owl
Photo by Laura M. Stanton

Although the joy of birding happens right outside my window most days, whenever possible, I safely visit different habitats to expand the variety of birds to watch. Whether I am inside or outside, I notice so much more than just the birds. I notice positive changes happening within.

The benefits I have experienced from watching our feathered friends have been confirmed by research. Why is birding good for your health? Watching birds:

  • Promotes mindfulness. Mindfulness is paying attention on purpose, in the moment, and without judgment. Whether you are birding inside or out, you are in the “here and now” which has been shown to decrease stress, anxiety, and rumination, and improve attention, memory, and focus. In addition, mindfulness can reduce chronic pain.
  • Requires stealth and silence. Spending time in silence lowers blood pressure, increases blood flow, and enhances sleep. Silence can also be therapeutic for depression.
  • Encourages meditation. During meditation, you eliminate the “noise” in your mind, creating a sense of calm and peace that benefits your emotional well-being and your overall health.
  • Relies on your sense of sight and hearing. A study found that just listening to bird song contributes to perceived attention restoration and stress recovery. Click here to listen to a sample of common bird songs.
  • Prevents nature-deficit disorder, a phenomenon related to the growing disconnect between humans and the natural world. Americans, on average, spend approximately 90% of their time indoors.
  • Benefits your heart. Regular exposure to nature is associated with improvements in cardiovascular disease and longevity.
  • Stimulates a sense of gratitude, which is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness.

Sources
Carter, S. (2016). Nature deficit disorder. Live Smart Ohio. Retrieved from https://livesmartohio.osu.edu/mind-and-body/carter-413osu-edu/nature-deficit-disorder   

Louv, R. (2008). Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Algonquin Books: Chapel Hill, NC.

Powers-Barker, P. (2016). Introduction to mindfulness. Ohioline. Retrieved from
https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-5243

Stanton, L. M. (2020). Barred Owl. JPEG file.

Stanton, L. M. (2020). Noises off: The benefits of silence. Live Smart Ohio. Retrieved from
https://livesmartohio.osu.edu/mind-and-body/stanton-60osu-edu/noises-off-the-benefit-of-silence

Written by Laura M. Stanton, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Warren County, stanton.60.osu.edu

Reviewed by Misty Harmon, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu

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