Archive for February, 2018

Have you had your “silence” today?

February 7th, 2018 11:35pm
Spending some quiet time with my busy boys is a struggle but we make it happen!

Spending some quiet time with my busy boys is a struggle but we make it happen!

As busy moms, we definitely value the beauty of silence! It may be a rare treat in some households! But did you know there could be benefits far beyond the initial enjoyment? In 2013, a study was published by the journal Brain, Structure and Function. It was a study conducted on mice to understand the affect different types of noise and lack thereof could have on their brains. They used what they thought was just a “control” group of mice that were only exposed to silence. What the study found was well beyond what they intended to study. They discovered that the mice that were exposed only to two hours of silence a day (their control group) actually developed new cells in the hippocampus (the region of the brain most associated with memory, emotion and learning)! According to researcher, Imke Kirste, the cells appeared to become functioning neurons!

In a sense, silence quite literally grew the brain!

A similar study in 2001 discovered that even when our brains are in a “resting” state, they are constantly internalizing and evaluating information. It never truly “sleeps”.

This “resting” state is also active during self-reflection. Joseph Moran et al. wrote in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience that the brains’ resting mode “is observed most closely during the pshychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.”

It is during our quiet, focused meditation that allows our consciousness to process information from our day. These moments of silence give our brains the opportunity to reflect, associate and correlate our internal and external worlds. It gives rise to our imaginations and allows us to tap into creativity we probably never recognized was there!

Did you know that your body can release stress hormones just because you heard a noise in your sleep that you didn’t even consciously recognize?? Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University discovered that children exposed to consistently loud noises begin to cope by ignoring the noise. This may sound logical and beneficial at first glance but what he also found was that not only did these children learn to tune out the disturbing noise, but every other noise too…including things they should be registering, like speech! The results from this study were published in the 2002 Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9).

In our family, we discovered this through personal experience. I first decided to keep a dream journal…not only was I recording about my dreams, but also recording the events that transpired right before bed and during sleep. For instance, my husband enjoyed falling asleep with the TV on. This would drive me nuts because it would invariably wake me at some point during the night. So for a week, I also paid attention to what was running on the tv during out sleep hours. What I discovered was interesting…my dreams correlated directly with what was airing on the television during our sleep hours! My brain was still processing every sound it heard, even when I wasn’t “really” listening! Now my husband and I have come to an agreement…I will allow the tv on but I set a timer so that it turns off within a short time. BOTH of sleep MUCH better as a result! This is also a big reason we don’t allow tv’s or digital devices in our kids rooms…ever! We try to keep these areas as designated quiet zones.

IMG_4565One more example. My youngest has by far been one of my worst sleepers. He would frequently wake throughout the evening screaming inconsolably. What we realized is that he was never getting his “quiet” time! My older kids were always up and about through the early evening, up late with homework or coming home late from activities. Every sound was triggering a stress response in our little one! We had no idea until we moved him upstairs to a much more secluded area where the sounds and activities of my older crew were not so apparent. He has been a different child! Ironically, the cognitive functions that are most handicapped during exposure to frequent noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving…pretty sure we all could use more of these in our day!

So bottom line? Forget your “safe zones” and start working on your “quiet zones”! Make this a quiet, focused and meditative time and your brain will reap the benefits!

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