My Favorite Thing About Nature Is Also Healthy For Your Heart
I stopped in my tracks. Shh, listen.
My husband looks concerned. “What is it?” he questions.
Just close your eyes. Listen.
“I don’t hear anything”, he says, confused.
I love being outside. Whether it’s a hike through the mountains, stroll on the beach, or sitting in our yard by the fire, I’m happy. The views are gorgeous and I enjoy the scent of fresh air. But my favorite part lacks sensory input. It’s the sound of nothing.
The Impact of Noise
Noise constantly surrounds us. Work is lively, traffic is busy, and gyms are loud. We are entertained by music, television, and conversation. Now, in this coffee shop, I hear people chatting. Baristas are clinking, closing, and creating. The background music is dulled by louder sounds. I enjoy this place, but it is far from silent.
Listen to your surroundings. What do you hear? Even in a relatively quiet place, you can hear the hum of an A/C unit, cars outside, or TV in the background.
This study discusses environmental noise pollution in the United States. It’s a few years old, but estimates that 104 million Americans had hearing loss in 2013 because of continuous noise exposure. They also explain how tens of millions of those are at risk for heart disease and other physical effects from the constant noise. I’ll admit, I knew being surrounded by never ending sounds isn’t great, but I didn’t know the effects are that intense.
How does exposure to noise cause heart disease? The researchers explain. It starts with the initial exposure to prolonged noise, which can cause decreased sleep quantity and quality, which can lead to heart disease. Noise can also cause increased irritability, distraction, and stress, resulting in endocrine disruption, then heart disease.
“Increased blood lipid, heart rate, blood pressure, and stress levels from noise lead to atherosclerosis, which is causally related to heart disease (Hoffman et al. 2013).” — Hammer et al, 2014
The article also discusses the impact of noise on children. Aside from the risks described above, they have poorer performance in school and more misbehavior. They have problems concentrating and lower reading levels than children not exposed to as much noise.
This is a huge problem. Our hearts give us life and hearing helps us live it fully. We need to protect them.
The Calming Sound of Nothing
This is where nature comes in. What if you heard absolutely nothing for a moment? There are pockets of this world where there are no distractions. They are untouched by human inventions, and you get to be truly alone with your body and thoughts.
If there are noises in nature, they are natural and calming. I feel at ease with the soothing sound of water passing by, a singing bird overhead, or the ruffle of wind through the trees. I sleep well next to the waves of an ocean. My stress levels lower when I’m outside with the gentle sounds of nature.
If you add a walk or hike to these calming effects, the health benefits are even more. We know that physical activity helps reduce blood pressure and improves heart health. Bring an apple as your snack, and we have a triple whammy of less noise, more exercise, and better eating.
Listen More, Hear Less
Enjoying the sound of nothing is odd at first, which shows how accustomed we are to constant entertainment. I am more conscious of spending quiet time after reading the above study and other information on noise pollution. Silence is beautiful in its own way, and I’ve grown to love it.
The biggest takeaway here is to find your quiet place. Nature is a great place to start, but you can also reduce noise in your home. Enjoy your morning coffee while gazing out your window, then spend an evening without the television. Hear the birds sing instead of news anchors chirp. Reduce your noise intake to help your sleep, stress levels, and concentration. You may just notice a happier and healthier heart.