The Science Of Silence
Originally written for Zansors
Silence has become a rare commodity in our daily lives. From the moment we wake up, to the
fall asleep, there are countless distractions looking to take up a fraction of our attention. It’s
little wonder that a counter-movement has emerged from the cacophony. Mindfulness, the act of tuning
into ourselves, is the simple antidote for our overstimulated brains.
While grabbing for our phones may feel like second nature, humans have been living in a
culture for a relatively short period of time. In the remote Himalayan mountains, Buddhist monks
live the highest example of mindfulness. By practicing silent meditation, these monks remove the
psychological barriers between themselves and the outside world, achieving a state of “oneness.”
So, how can we experience some of these benefits at home? The good news is that you don’t
devote your life to spiritual practice to reap the powerful benefits of mindfulness. Mental health
and meditation experts recommend performing a mental “cleanse” periodically to calm racing thoughts
and to improve focus-related task performance. Even ten minutes per day of silent meditation can
bring marked improvement to your mental and physical wellness.
Why is silent meditation so important? Scientists have been
surprised to find that silence
is a key
factor in creating a healing environment for your brain. Here are some of the ways that silence
boosts your brain’s superpowers:
- Give Your Brain A Break - Most of the brain’s energy is put towards automatic
functions, such as
maintaining awareness of our surroundings and developing cognitive associations. Comparatively
little brain energy is put towards complex tasks, such as advanced arithmetic. Much like the way
our body metabolizes calories, most energy is burned through our body’s natural functions, not
by working out hard at the gym. Meditating in a still, silent place allows the brain to
optimally conserve its energy. In this period of mental relaxation, the brain can allocate
energy towards “house cleaning activities,” which are essential for the preservation of existing
- Tap Into Your Brain’s Default Mode - Scientific studies have revealed distinct modes
brain: the Default Mode Network and the Task-Positive Network (other brain networks have also
been observed, such as the Resting State Network). The default mode is activated when we are at
silent rest, ideally with eyes closed. During this state, the body supplies more blood to the
frontal lobes, which is generally interpreted as increased brain activity in that region. The
default mode is also associated with increased introspection, a notable benefit in the practice
of mindfulness. In this mode, the brain does the work of amalgamating the conscious and
subconscious minds, helping us set new skills into muscle memory, digest new academic concepts,
or absorb therapeutic work.
- Support Neuroplasticity - Neuroplasticity is newly making its way into popular
have been stunning case studies in which patients who experience chronic neural pain or
degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, tap into the power of their own neural networks to
develop compensatory mechanisms to relieve their symptoms. Research shows that mindfulness
facilitates the brain’s reorganization, giving it space to effectively heal itself (Doidge,
142). Studies involving mice have shown that silence, rather than music or white noise, promoted
new cell development in the hippocampus. This area of the brain is associated with memory
formation and sensory perception.
- Truly Self-Reflect - Being silent with ourselves gives way to noticing subtle signs
bodies: breathing patterns, digestive noises, and any musculoskeletal imbalances. Silent
meditation is a valuable time to take internal inventory. In the practice of mindfulness,
greater self-insight can be found by embracing silence and simplicity.
- Process Suppressed Thoughts And Emotions - One of the intimidating factors of
silence is it
takes away coping mechanisms for suppressing painful thoughts and emotions. By filling our lives
with distractions, we’re able to evade processing deep trauma. Suppressing thoughts and emotions
long-term keeps the brain in an elevated level of stress and prevents its systems from working
properly. When we don’t consciously process trauma or negative thoughts, they tend to emerge in
self-destructive habits. Doing the hard work of sitting in silence and allowing latent thoughts
and emotions to come to the surface is temporary pain in service of long-term wellness.
- Boost Creativity - The brain in a silent environment can be likened to a blank
slate. In a
distraction-free space we are able to notice every idea that appears in our mind’s eye. Silence,
even boredom, puts us into a seeking state, forcing us to choose what is most fulfilling for us
to work on. Instead of being burdened by unproductive distractions, silent meditation peels back
non-necessities. The phenomenon of writer's block is most aggravating when the writer wracks
their brain for a shred of creativity. The medicine is to simply stop trying; let your brain
subconsciously do its work, and it will gift you an idea in due time.
The power of silent meditation is truly compelling. Its effects on mental wellness and
competitive performance have caught the attention of elite sports teams and major corporations.
A simple practice, requiring nothing but time and space, can bring about measurable benefits for
already high-performing individuals. Instead of a jumbo coffee in the afternoon, a short
meditation break is all that’s required to reboot your innate capabilities.
So, embrace a bit of silence in your day. You’ll be reinvigorating your brain,
degenerative diseases, and taking another step closer to monk-like oneness. A bit of silence is
a much-needed salve for the stressed, distracted brain.