THE STRESS OF NOISE
We are delighted to inform our readers that hot on the heels of our success in being voted the ‘Best Spa and Wellness Resort’ by the South India Travel Awards, we have now been shortlisted for the 2016 Luxury Travel Guide Awards.
The voting process for this prestigious international award has been running for the last 12 months and as well as inviting nominations, the awards team has contacted almost two million subscribers to invite them to vote for the best hotel experiences they have had. The voting will take place in mid-May so we are all keeping our fingers crossed!
From our point of view this is an acknowledgement not only of the hard work our team has consistently been putting in, but on another level, a vindication of the power of silence. After all, this has been our philosophy since we opened in 2008.
The stress of noise …
All too easily overlooked, silence is becoming more and more attractive to more and more people. As both our external and internal worlds become increasingly loud and cluttered the balm of silent places and silence itself is becoming not only more valued but more needed.
Studies have shown that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. Throughout the day and even when we are sleeping the amygdalae – that region of the brain which is associated with memory formation and emotion - is activated by noise and this causes a release of stress hormones. Thus if you live in a consistently noisy environment, as all urban dwellers do, without even realising it you are likely to be experiencing chronically elevated levels of stress hormones.
Noise pollution harms cognitive and task performance at work and school, impacting negatively on reading attention, memory and problem solving. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error-making. Studies have also shown that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills.
In short, noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans.
… and the balm of silence
On the other hand, silence seems to have the opposite effect, releasing tension in both brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart (2011) discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to ‘relaxing’ music (let alone playing video games or watching tv). It showed that silence reduces blood pressure while increasing the onset and amplitude of relaxed alpha waves in the brain.
In fact, silence is much more important to your brains than you might think.
A study on mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function (2013) used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect they had on the animals’ brains. The silence was originally intended to be the control in the study but what the researchers found surprised them: when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence a day they developed new cells in the hippocampus, that part of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning. Silence was generating new cells and helping them to differentiate into functioning neurons and integrate into the system. If this is so for mice, why not for us? It may be that silence can quite literally grow your brain.
Silence allows the brain to reorganize itself
A 2013 article in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience showed that when you engage with silence and are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there is the opportunity for your brain to process information. During these periods of respite, your brain has the freedom it needs not only to rest and recharge but also think about things in an imaginative way. So silence is not only a stress-reliever, it actually replenishes our cognitive resources and helps us find out internal compass.
This is something that artists have always known; as the author Herman Melville once wrote:
“All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence”.
Catering to our need for silence
In the discussion on silence, India is an interesting case in point. Until quite recently, as a predominantly traditional and agricultural culture, the country was relatively free of noise. Nowadays it is the opposite.
Fortunately, some aspects of India’s traditional culture are still available to restore the balance: Ayurveda, yoga and meditation have always made positive use of silence as a healing and nourishing strategy. And this is not just a question of cultivating a mood of peace and quiet; the science is clear. When you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can recover some of its cognitive abilities; a quiet environment nourishes you physically and mentally.
So, why not come and discover a place where silence is appreciated and subtly fostered? The Hermitage is a beautiful and unspoiled venue overlooking the best beach in India. This does mean, of course, that you will have to suffer the sound of waves lapping on the golden sand, but all in all, that shouldn’t prove too stressful for you. And if it does, we have plenty of therapeutic treatments to help…
After all, The Hermitage is a place where silence has the right to be heard.