Silence and Rest Are Crucial for Mental Health

September 3, 2019
Resting your body and mind, sleeping deeply, enjoying the silence, spending time alone... Silence and rest are practically a luxury these days. However, if you care about your health, you should do your best to make time for them.

Silence and rest are two precious resources in danger of extinction. They’re a luxury, a gift that you give yourself only when your schedule and responsibilities allow you to. However, far from being indulgences, these are actually basic needs for your mental well-being.

The famous Roman poet Ovid hit the nail on the head when he said that a life without rest will quickly fade away. Exhaustion and a stressful, overstimulating environment will slowly chip away at your health and quality of life.

Most of us live in environments with constant background noise. Traffic, conversations, machines beeping and buzzing, trains, planes, TVs, and even the constant humming of your laptop. This non-stop ambient noise puts you in a state of hyperactivity, capable of changing your mood. It can make you irritable, tired, and unfocused.

The most interesting thing about all of this is that people get used to this reality. “That’s just how it is,” you tell yourself, and you accept it. In this hyperconnected, fast, and sleep-deprived world, silence and rest have become luxuries that aren’t accessible to everyone.

A stressed guy at work with piles of papers.

Silence and rest nourish the brain

You can die from working too much. At the moment there’s no word for this concept in English, but it does exist in other languages. In Japan, the word is karoshi, in China gualaosi, and in Korea gwarosa. In these highly industrialized countries where life is all about business and productivity, silence and rest aren’t just a luxury; they’re becoming more and more scarce.

Lack of sleep and stress won’t kill you directly, but this concept of overwork death exists because lack of sleep and stress contribute to increased suicide rates. People are so exhausted and desperate that they see suicide as the only solution. In the Western world, things are a bit different.

In Europe and the Americas, you don’t see the same data about overwork and suicide. However, there’s a link between working too much and heart disease, depression, anxiety, stress, and insomnia. Thus, according to experts such as Dr. Michael Roizen, chief wellness officer at the Cleveland Clinic, “Sleep is the most underrated health habit”.

Your brain needs peace and quiet

Research shows that persistent noise can negatively affect your health and your mood. For example, a study published in 1975 in Environment and Behavior Magazine showed that Manhatten children who went to schools close to the subway tested nearly a year behind their peers. This finding is quite alarming when you think about how many children go to school in urban areas.

External noise, however, isn’t the only kind of noise that can affect your brain. There’s another kind of constant hum that negatively impacts your health. We’re talking, of course, about your inner dialogue. That steady stream of thoughts, worries, “should haves” and “could haves” that run through your mind all day. This “noise” is also unhealthy and affects your mood.

Silence and rest are the antidotes to modern life. They have the ability to regulate your brain so that it can find harmony and synchronicity with your authentic self.

A woman sleeping in bed enjoying silence and rest.

Sleep, Another “luxury” in danger of extinction

You probably don’t relate sleep-deprivation with drunkenness. However, a study by Dr. David Geffen at the University of California Los Angeles shows that lack of sleep has the same effect on the brain as consuming alcohol. Your neurons don’t communicate effectively, you have trouble concentrating, your performance is poor, your mood changes, or you might be irritable or feel depressed.

The psychological effects of sleep-deprivation are significant. Nevertheless, most people today don’t get enough sleep. Your lifestyle, devices, and the blue light of your screens stimulate your brain and make it hard to fall asleep.

When you finally do fall asleep, your racing thoughts and worries make it hard to rest deeply. A fitful sleep doesn’t give you the kind of reset you need for your physical and mental health.

The situation is bad, and some businesses are capitalizing on your lack of sleep. They want to sell you silence and rest. There are sleep masks that monitor your brain waves and REM states, pills to help you nap, and spas and sleep centers that claim to help you fall asleep in minutes.

You don’t need to fall prey to these gimmicks and expensive treatments. Just try to be aware of this simple fact: rest is life, and in a world of incessant internal and external noise, silence is health. Keep that in mind and do your best to find moments of silence and rest in your hectic life.

  • Dong-Woo Choi, Sung-Youn Chun (2018) Association between Sleep Duration and Perceived Stress: Salaried Worker in Circumstances of High Workload. Int J Environ Res Public Health. doi  10.3390/ijerph15040796
  • Vago, D. R., & Zeidan, F. (2016). The brain on silent: mind wandering, mindful awareness, and states of mental tranquility. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences1373(1), 96–113. https://doi.org/10.1111/nyas.1317