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Sound of silence boosts brainpower

Recently, I attended a conference at Green Valley Ranch in Henderson and the talks were amazing — but the noise! I’m not talking about the conference room itself or the audio-visual technology but the socialization afterwards.

For example, at the pizza restaurant, with over 50 people packed into cramped tables, the noise was deafening. Next came an after-party in one of the hotel suites with the same people crowded into a small space that created a noise level similar to a rock concert. It was almost impossible to have a conversation with the person sitting next to you. Nobody seemed aware of the problem — or that there was even a problem.

And, have you been to a movie theater or concert hall lately? The noise levels seem to be increasing with each new release. Have we become so insensitive to loud background noise that we just tune it out, even if it is uncomfortable and inconvenient?

The television set is considered an essential in most modern homes. Regardless of our other electronics most people turn on the TV first thing and it just stays on. Many people fall asleep to the TV and it may stay on all night, too. Let me ask you, do you turn off the TV during the ads or when you are not watching, or is it just background noise to accompany your daily activities? I am not anti-TV; I enjoy watching certain shows but the remote does have an off button.

Did you know that excessive noise can contribute to anxiety and depression? Or that sudden loud noise can induce panic attacks in some people? Noise pollution can be as damaging to health as air or water pollution.

In 2011, the World Health Organization described noise pollution as a “modern plague.” The brain needs quiet to function efficiently. A recent Huffington Post article “Why Silence is Good for Your Brain,” found that silence relieves stress and tension, replenishes mental resources, and taps into the brain’s default mode network activating the inner world of ideas, memories and creativity. Quiet can even rejuvenate brain cells.

Don’t take my word for it. The Huffington Post quotes a 2006 Heart Journal article that just two minutes of silence can be more relaxing than listening to 10 minutes of relaxing music, lowering blood pressure and creating beneficial brain changes.

Habits are hard to break and many people find it hard to change their routines, even if loud noise accompanies these activities. We live in the middle of a desert and even though the vast outdoors might be threatening to some people, the beauty and splendor and quiet of nature can be beneficial to health and wellness.

Take a walk in the desert, in the mountains or by the lake, wear earplugs to loud social events, turn off or mute the TV and other electronics when you are not paying attention to them, and invest in some noise-canceling headphones if you absolutely must be in a noisy environment. Your ears and your brain will thank you.

Angela Smith is a Ph.D. life coach, author and educator who has been resident in Nevada since 1992. She can be reached at catalyst78@cox.net.

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