I was waiting for my daughter at dance class recently when I discovered this really cool article in the July 2011 issue of the magazine Real Simple: Life made Easier.
Oh boy, was it noisy in that hallway where I was waiting for my child. Waves of noise were coming at me from all directions: jazz and ballet music drifting out from classrooms, younger siblings chattering and crying, mothers making phonecalls. In the midst of all that I was trying to read this article on “Silence”. Kind of ironic.
In the article Holly Pevzner talks about noise pollution, and how it affects people in a negative way. The author argues that there is strong scientific evidence that growing noise levels in our modern world cause a host of problems in humans. For example, health studies have shown that loud noises make human hearts beat faster and increase blood pressure. Scientists even have gone so far as to directly link loud traffic noise to a great number of heart attacks that killed people. Not sure how they proved that one. Besides these direct health effects, noise can lead to problems with attention, aggression, insomnia, and general stress.
I can very much relate to the insomnia part. One thing that really frustrated me when I moved to US was the loud train whistles that go off all the time. I nearly fell out of bed when I first moved here and heard the trains the first night. “What is that? ” I asked my husband as I jumped out of bed.
Our family lives about 1.5 miles from train tracks where each morning, sometimes as early as 3 am, freight trains blast through blowing their whistles like there is no tomorrow. How stupid I thought. Why do we have to live with this kind of noise terror? Wouldn’t it be better to build gates so that cars cannot go onto train tracks at all rather than make all that noise? They have that sort of technology in Germany. How can the guy driving the train stand it? He must be going deaf for sure. My previous fondness and nostalgia for trains whistles, I believe, are gone forever.
I suppose as time went by I learned to live with this kind of noise pollution. Or maybe I have just learned to live my life around them. The train alarmclock has led to some lifestyle changes for me. I have become an early riser. What’s the point of staying in bed when you can’t sleep anyways?
But Holly’s article also made me think of other noises: Random noises, like people talking on cell phones everywhere, with no regard who they are standing next to and what that person is doing. Then there also the noises that we can choose ourselves to be surrounded by: like the TV, stereo, or radio, ipods. Pevzner suggests that we cut down on all of them and try some simple kind of meditation once in while.
She says: "You don’t even have to go to yoga class for that: Just sit in a quiet spot, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. Try and relax your whole body from head to toe. And breathe! I really liked it."
Inspired by her article I tried something else. I turned off the radio in my little studio/work space. I usually like to listen to the radio, and I have some favorite CDs I like to play when working on my dolls. After reading the article I stopped that completely. What was the result of this experiment? I loved it! I found that by turning off the noise, even noise that I perceived as enjoyable, I was much more focused and relaxed in my work. I got a lot more work done, and I was in a better mood and happier. You should really try this some time.
I remember a conversation I had in the Etsy forums with other natural toymakers. We talked about why our natural toys are so much better for children. The main advantage over modern toys is that natural toys don’t overstimulate like so many lights-flashing noisy plastic toys.
That got me to thinking that maybe we adults would be better off too if we made some healthy choices about “our toys”. Maybe we’d be a lot less stressed if we turned off that cellphone and jogged, cooked, cleaned and created in silence…
Here are two books on the topic Pevzner quoted from in the article. I must find them in my quest to lead a simpler and better life:
Listening Below the Noise by Anne LeClaire
Peaceful Parenting by Nancy S. Buck