Your Fresh Start
5 tips to feel better and be better in “sweet ’16.”
3. Reduce noise
We’re surrounded by sound: Fluorescent lights buzz, air duct blowers blow, coworkers’ conversations float over the cubicle wall, traffic rumbles by. This so-called “social noise” has tripled over the past 30 years, according to research by the International Commission on Biological Effects of Noise—and it’s causing damage to more than our hearing. In fact, unwanted noise can, by affecting stress and blood hormones, lead to hypertension, cardiovascular disease and even disruption in the brain’s executive functions (such as planning and reasoning).
“Our bodies are composed mostly of water, and water responds to sound vibrations,” says Mary Mazzer, R.N., a certified holistic nurse and health and wellness coach who works at the Center for Integrative Medicine in Ridgewood. “When we are exposed to sound, we respond not only at an intellectual and emotional level, but literally at a cellular level too.”
Fortunately, most of us have a number of options when it comes to dialing down everyday noise. At work, noise-canceling earbuds or headphones are increasingly acceptable, thanks to their widespread use by millennials. At home, short of going all in on soundproofing, we can opt for actions that range from inexpensive (caulking and sealing all openings in walls and doors) to medium-expensive (investing in solid wood doors and thick rugs for wooden floors). We can choose not to have the TV and radio on constantly, or replace that background noise with soothing classical music or nature sounds. Even our naturally exuberant (i.e., noisy) children can be guided to creative activities that keep the clamor to a minimum, such as drawing or doing jigsaw puzzles.
So direct is the connection between well-being and quiet that some hospitals—The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood is one—have instituted regular “quiet times” in which TVs are off, visitors are encouraged to step out and voices are kept low. If you hear anything during such a time at Valley, it’s apt to be from musicians who stroll the hallways playing Celtic over-the-shoulder harps. Creating a similarly healing environment in daily life is, according to Mazzer, about “living consciously, living with awareness.
“When you get in the car, do you automatically turn on the radio? Can you try without it, and see if it makes a difference in your stress level? Did you hear the birds this morning, hear the rain on the roof—or automatically turn on the news and drown it out?
“It’s an individual thing,” she says. “The point is to recognize what you’re experiencing, step aside and do something different and see if it has an impact.”