Can you remember the sound of true silence? I mean without the clickety-click of your keyboard, the hum of a passing car or the subtle scrape of your thumbnail with every swipe of the phone screen. Even if you do manage to block out all external noise, there's still no hiding from the boombox that is the brain, pumping out anxiety-inducing anthems such as the chart-topping "Where Has All the Time Gone?" the seminal "Is This the Life for Me?" and "Did I Really Just Say That?: A Ballad."
We're experiencing a global silence shortage, and as excess noise pollutes our mind, it's only making our stress situation worse, ramping up our cortisol and aggravating the problem. Studies have found that excess noise can lead to things as serious as hypertension and cardiovascular disease. But it isn't just that noise is bad for us. In fact, experiencing more silence could be the key to a richer sense of well-being.
A 2013 study found that mice subjected to two hours of silence a day grew new neurons in the hippocampus, the region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning. And a separate study (on humans this time) found that five minutes of pure silence every single day can have a positive impact on mental health. Silence has often been linked to dropping cortisol as well as lowering blood pressure and heart rate. It's no wonder we all feel better after a little bit of peace and quiet.
Now, as our lives become noisier (externally and internally) and more frenetic, the pull of a little quiet time has never been stronger. And it's the urge for quiet that has silence earmarked as the wellness industry's hottest commodity. According to a report by Global Wellness Summit, we're going to come across more and more brands and businesses offering us ways to escape the buzz of life.
Much more than digital detox retreats and meditation lessons (although they can count too), the new breed of silent wellness experiences might just see you bedding down in a monastery or zipping-up your lips at a silent spa. Bliss. Here are four destinations where you can find a little bit of peace and quiet.
Therme Laa Silent Spa
Built to resemble elements of traditional Catholic architecture, the environment alone at this Austrian spa is enough to send you into a deep state of bliss. But then add in the fact that the only noise you'll hear between check-in and check-out is the gentle trickle of water in each of the pools and plunge baths. Yes, even the therapists are kept schtum.
Time to Log Off Digital Detox Weekend
At Log Off's four-day retreats in the heart of Somerset, you have to surrender all of your devices, immediately omitting all the noise they create in the mind, and each morning starts with a half-hour silent walk.
Estonia's Hedon Spa offers a silent spa package that allows visitors full use of the facilities without a single decibel of noise from anyone else. Dreamy.
If you can barely go five minutes without talking, challenge yourself to a full day of silence at Gaia House in Devon. Through walking and sitting meditation, you'll become better aligned (and more comfortable) with your inner voice, and you'll probably leave with a newfound affection for silence too.
We see you over there—step away from your laptop.
Basner M, Babisch W, Davis A, et al. Auditory and non-auditory effects of noise on health. Lancet. 2014;383(9925):1325‐1332. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(13)61613-X