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Noise pollution is everywhere — here’s how to make time for silence

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Here are ways to dim the digital noise in your life, starting from the flurry of notifications received on your cell phone – Mar 27, 2018

For some, it’s pollution you don’t even notice anymore.

Women’s Health magazine says noise pollution is a health threat nobody is talking about, and previous studies have even shown that living in major transit cities like Toronto could mean long-term hearing loss due to noise.

But noise pollution just isn’t traffic. It could be construction, stereo systems or even notifications on your phone, experts say. Women’s Health adds because of this, silence has become a “hot commodity,” and more than ever, people are trying to figure out how to add silence to their daily routines.

Kathseva Fentiman, co-director of the Self Realization Meditation Healing Centre in Halfmoon Bay, B.C., says for anyone who lives in the city for a long period of time, you are not even aware of what noise can do to your health.

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“Often people tune out,” she tells Global News. “You have selective listening and it’s actually having an effect on people’s energy.”

READ MORE: Noise from Toronto’s public transit could lead to long-term hearing loss — study

Fentiman has a silent retreat located in a quiet community three hours away from Vancouver, and she says when city dwellers arrive, they often feel tired. “You don’t realize how much [noise] depletes your energy. When we’re out of the city in a quiet place, people start to notice things more. They see trees, they smell things and their senses are more in-tuned.”

Being alone

As Fentiman adds, learning how to be alone isn’t about turning off your phone or trying a retreat. While these options can help you understand the value of silence, it comes down to daily practice. And for a lot of people — especially ones glued to their devices — it’s hard to shut off. At her retreat, she adds, there are no devices, WiFi or televisions, almost forcing people to be in silence.

“There’s nothing to distract people,” she continues. “After the retreat, people say they feel so much more [like themselves]. Initially, it’s an adjustment period.”
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READ MORE: Residents raising concerns about noisy flights overhead

Toronto-based meditation teacher Avi Craimer says although an urge to find alone time or silence may not necessarily be trendy or new, the growing use of social media means we have less silence built into our lives.

“We want to feel connected or part of the group on one hand, but we also need time and space in our own thoughts and feelings,” he tells Global News.

But there still can be a social stigma attached to being alone, experts say. Fentiman says in her line of work, a person truly can’t know themselves unless they are comfortable being alone. “It doesn’t mean you’re alone. You’re just with yourself.”

Importance of silence

Liz Frost of Sugar Ridge Retreat Centre in Wyebridge, Ont., says silence is needed because our minds are always active.

“With the busyness of our society, the mind is even more active, causing more stress to the individual since all this information processing is stressful,” she tells Global News via e-mail. “We are constantly bombarded with messages that are not that important but they come through with urgency, and then we need to decipher what matters and ignore the rest.”

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Previous studies have also shown the health benefits of being silent or being surrounded by it. One researcher from Stirling University found silence in classrooms meant better exam results and better self-esteem, the Telegraph reports.

Another 2006 study found two minutes of silence was more relaxing than listening to relaxing music, Huffpost reports.

Frost adds silence should be treated like sleep.

“We don’t often think about rest for the mind, yet we have concern about getting good quality sleep for the body.”

Silence on the daily

And while silent retreats or getaways aren’t accessible for everyone, experts also have tips on how to make time for silence.

Just breathe

Fentiman and Craimer says even before starting a routine like meditation, focus on your breath. Take a few minutes out of your day and listen to yourself inhaling and exhaling.

Start with an hour

Bringing silence into your home, for example, means figuring out what to do with your time. Fentiman suggests taking an hour every day to focus on something for yourself in silence. This could mean reading a book, having a bath or just turning off your phone for an hour. Craimer says even a few minutes of silence is beneficial if you use a timer.

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READ MORE: Montreal’s West End residents prepare for higher levels of airplane noise

Make a list

Craimer says start by making a list of all the quiet spaces you know. This could be a park, a library or a place or worship. Next, make time to visit these places, especially if you are close to them during work hours. “Structure your day so if you’re taking lunch, you can choose to go to a quieter place.”

Work around your day

All of us function differently, which means making time for silence isn’t always manageable. Craimer adds if you really want alone time, you need to add it to your daily routine. This could mean meditating right before a workout or finding a few minutes of alone time after you wake up.

Meditation

Mediation can not only help you focus your mind in silence, but the true practice means bringing this silence or peace with you, wherever you are, Frost says.

“It’s a practice which becomes a habit so one becomes more mindful moving through life and there is rest for the mind even in the sounds of the world. The chaos doesn’t seem so chaotic.”

Craimer suggests using an app or even joining group meditation practices to start. All of these practices result in low=level stimulation, something our minds are not used to.

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“We have a feeling we need to do something to respond to our world,” he says. “The opposite of stress is not doing anything or responding. Let yourself be a little bored sometimes.”

arti.patel@globalnews.ca

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