Silence is Golden

Learn how to turn down the volume, tune out the annoyances--and make your life healthier.

By Dana Hudepohl

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Quiet Please
In order to counteract this response, we need to turn down the volume in our lives and rediscover true quiet. People who do this "start noticing sounds that were always there, but they've never heard them before," says Alice Domar, PhD, founder and director of the Mind/Body Center for Women's Health at Boston IVF and author of Self-Nurture. "I have patients who say, 'When I sit down in a quiet room, all of the sudden I can hear my own heartbeat.' It beats all the time. Life is just so noisy that you don't hear it."

A magical feeling accompanies the discovery of a moment so hushed that you might have the opportunity to detect the chirp of a cricket or the singing of a bird. In fact, researchers have discovered that people find the sounds of nature calming. That phenomenon also has an explanation rooted in our evolution. Hearing birds calling and insects buzzing was a sign that our surroundings were safe; only if a predator came on the scene would there be a sudden sound shift. So when you listen to the birds and bugs, you feel relaxed, peaceful.

Inspired, I decided to give the silent treatment a try. I turned off the ceiling fan in my bedroom. The first few nights, it took me five or 10 extra minutes to fall asleep, but I soon began to relish the stillness. So I took the experiment a step further and switched off my cell phone ringer, silenced my car radio, and—finally!—put blinds on my glass front door to hush my barking dogs. Those small changes made me feel much calmer. "Turning off the noise around you gives your brain a chance to rest," Domar says. "If you're constantly listening, you never really relax."

As I carved out times of serenity each day, I felt more at peace. Time even seemed to move a little more slowly. If something was bothering me, instead of letting my mind veg out on the lyrics to the latest song, I silently reflected and worked it through. "In the long run, a quieter life will mean a healthier life," Bronzaft says. "You relax, slow down, and get in touch with your inner being. And that's good for your body, your mind, and your spirit."

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