Take a breath
Research shows that sitting in silence can benefit your long-term health…even when it feels impossible to do.
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I admit, for someone who used to really hate the winter, I’ve kind of come to love it. Sitting in silence, getting cozy under a blanket, a candle lit on the end table, a book in hand—there’s just really something about it that surprises my usual summer-loving heart. Maybe it’s the restfulness of it all; this feeling of taking a breath, moving slowly, and enjoying the smaller moments. Stirring big pots of soup wearing fuzzy socks, crocheting a blanket, letting myself get lost in writing prose. Winter is less busy and less time-consuming, and I find myself really enjoying it.
And yet, I wonder if it’s winter that I love, or just this idea of slowing down. I have found that the silence of winter has really been startling to me—no birds chirping or crickets singing. No busy streets or summer fireworks. I love all of these things, don’t get me wrong. But the idea of just taking a break and sitting in the silence has been good for my soul this season—even if NYC has yet to experience a real snowstorm.
So of course, me being who I am, I had to dive into the health benefits behind silence. I’m not dumb, I know taking the time to calm my life, my body, and my brain has been particularly good for my soul—and I knew there must be some kind of psychological reason behind it all. And as always, with a little bit of research, I was right. I figured it was worth sharing with all of you.
The health benefits of silence
Along with making us more mindful and self-aware, a 2013 animal study actually shows that spending two hours of silence every day could boost your brain by literally creating more brain cells in the hippocampus—the brain’s center for memory, emotions, and learning.
Another study also shows that simply spending two minutes of silence (instead of just listening to relaxing music) can reduce your stress levels by changing your blood pressure and circulation to the brain.
Experts also say sitting in silence can give you a stronger sense of clarity and better decision-making skills. Silence even allows your brain the time it may need to process difficult emotions.
And while more studies need to be done to confirm this, early research has shown that silence can even benefit your cardiovascular health, giving you a leg up on your health long term. Which sort of makes sense, right? Given the ways it’s helping your blood pressure, circulation, and stress levels?
But…are we even surprised?
I feel like this is a conversation we’ve had together a few times. We’ve talked about how other cultures are great at taking breaks and resting, and how hustle culture is slowly destroying us. The burnout experience is very real, and given the way research shows how it can majorly affect our mental health, it’s no wonder I have a newfound appreciation for winter and silence—it’s allowed me the chance to breathe.
As someone who writes about health and wellness a lot, I just know it’s important to have these conversations because it’s all interconnected. Cortisol (the stress hormone) can wreak havoc on our bodies when it’s triggered for long periods of time by affecting our blood pressure levels, immune system, and even increasing our chronic disease risk. The Mayo Clinic says not only does a healthy diet and exercise benefit our cortisol levels, but relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, and deep breathing really also can be healing.
If you find it silly to sit in silence for that long, try that simple two-minute mark (like the one study said) and see how it goes. You can always build up a practice as time goes on, and there’s no rush to a deadline or goal to achieve. Because it’s all a part of the process of bettering our health and happiness for the long term.
For more reads over your morning cup of coffee, check out my latest published work!
Putting This in Your Coffee Could Reduce Inflammation, Says New Study (The Healthy)
The 3 Best Workout Recovery Tips From a Sports Nutrition Consultant (Clean Plates)
I’ll be off next week!
My husband is taking me on a surprise trip for my 30th birthday. 🤭 So I’ll be taking next week off because I quite literally have no idea where in the world I will be. Exciting? Romantic? Nerve-racking because I don’t know what to pack? Yes, all of the above.
I’ll be sending out my usual Bite Sized episode on Wednesday, then taking a break from the weekly essay for that coming Saturday. But don’t worry, we’ll be back in action on Feb. 25!