Laughter rings through the chaos of the train car as a group of teenagers gather around a telephone. The woman across the hall is also speaking: «Yes, exactly…because in the end…». Even the beep of the conductor’s announcement and the hum of the wheels on the tracks pass through me.

It’s the usual train journey, but lately my commute – and everything else in my life – it seems too loud and loud. So much so that I want to stand up, halfway down the carriage, and shout: “Can everyone shut up for five minutes?”

I have a co-dependent relationship with noise: I have a constant need to wear headphones (even if I’m going to the supermarket around the corner), to have a podcasts that accompanies me in the background while I get ready and refuse to move out of the city center, where I live now, next to a music, I am subjected to the constant buzz of people. My boyfriend, meanwhile, runs 10 km regularly without music and would like to live in a shack in the middle of nowhere, the thought crosses my mind for a moment, it would be impossible for me. Yet, recently, my busy and exhausted mind has been craving the silence.

It’s not just me: let’s take the “quiet life” trend of TikTok which has grown steadily over the past year with delightfully simplistic videos of nature walks, laundry swaying in the breeze, and romantic getaways to remote locations. Is it any wonder?

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The world is a noisy place

It’s no surprise that all this sound can be harmful to our well-being. According to theWorld Health Organizationexcessive exposure to noise can cause different types of symptoms, from increasing stress levels and blood pressure, to causing fatigue and impacting mental health. If the noise also has an impact on sleep, the problems increase.
“As humans, we are always on the lookout for warnings or stimuli that may require us to take action – and if noise is present, it takes brain power to process and filter the sound,” explains Gordon Harrison, chief audiologist at Specsavers. «Filtering noise requires energy and can reduce our ability to concentrate, which can make us tired.” Like when we turn down the music while trying to park S, to help us “concentrate” better.

It’s a sentiment echoed by Dr James Gill of Warwick Medical School, who assessed the contestants from The Island Of Bear Grylls in relation to the impact of noise and psychological well-being. He believes the constant bombardment of noise is linked to the poor mental health of many patients. «As a family doctor, I think that one of the factors that contribute (and there are many) to the high number of cases of people with drug-based problemsanxiety are the distractions in which we are immersed. From the streets, to the bustle in the shops, to the music in the gyms, we rarely encounter silence and when we do, we tend to wear headphones or distract ourselves with our phones.” “The result,” explains Dr. Gill, is that “our concentration is always under attack.”

«We never have the possibility – nor do we allow ourselves to do so – to stop mentally. As a result, instead of dealing with the events of routine of life, we reject them and things accumulate,” observes the doctor. “In the end, if we take household chores as an example, we go from having a few dishes to wash to having an entire house in disarray.”

I’ve started to notice that I suffer from brain fog, but only recently have I started to think that my obsession with noise might be playing a role in influencing my stress. I therefore decide to turn down the volume and change habits.

I start by ditching the headphones, not just for short walks but also for an entire flight, on my commute, and at the gym. During my morning walks in the park, I appreciate the chirping of birds and the rustling of leaves. I find my mind starting to resolve some gaps in the novel I’m writing. I feel somehow liberated from the turmoil of life.

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In search of silence

As part of my “silence seeking” experiment, I’ve found that some of the noisy stimuli around me simply become more agitated without music to drown them out – and audiologist Harrison agrees that not all sounds are created equally way. «Some sounds stimulate a more relaxed state of mind, things like walking among trees or by the sea are well known to help with relaxation, because they are familiar sounds we feel comfortable absorbing and processing without too much mental effort,” he says. I get it: I can easily unplug from a lively office and stick to an old one r&b playlists without it being a distraction because I know all the songs from start to finish, while I know others who could never work while listening to music. I find it more difficult to concentrate on music if the songs are unfamiliar to me, because my brain prefers to try to distinguish the lyrics. Some of my colleagues rely on earplugs just to muffle outside sounds in our workspace.

For Ciara McGinley, a former journalist, the search for silence triggered a career change. She now works as a meditation and breathing instructor, organizing retreats Finding Quiet. “I never thought I would be happy and peaceful sitting by the water listening to the birds or watching the ducks,” she says. «I realized that my life was going too fast, that the noise was forcing me not to think. So, I promised myself to spend more time in silence and see what would happen to me. It was a process of disconnection,” explains Ciara.

Now, Ciara is a big fan of meditation sessions, puts her phone into “sleep mode” around 8pm, and makes an effort to visit green spaces every day. She confesses that she discovered that «having ear-canceling headphones noise on the subway and on trains it’s been a turning point, it helps me understand how I feel, rather than getting caught up in what’s happening around me.”

For anyone else who wants to turn down the volume dial, Dr. Lisa Avery (better known as The Positive Psychologist) encourages you to search quiet spaces (ideally in nature) and to deliberately schedule quiet moments into your routine. “Allocate a specific time for this, just like you would for any other activity.”

Dr. Gill adds that his “prescription for a noisy world” includes purchasing one wakes up so you can leave your phone in another room overnight and «increase your protection; Even if you don’t have a garden, covering the windowsill with plants will help absorb the sound reflections from your room.” He also claims to spend 120 minutes in nature every week “with this intention and nothing else.” Don’t think about step counting, it’s all about green.

For me, I will continue to take short walks without listening to music, tuning in to the subtle sounds of nature, and deliberately seeking out quieter routes, especially on days when inspiration is lacking. Perhaps lowering the decibels from time to time will provide more moments of calm, if only fleetingly, in a world where our choices about the sounds we are exposed to seem out of control.

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Jennifer Savin is Cosmopolitan UK’s multiple award-winning Features Editor, who was crowned Digital Journalist of the Year for her work tackling the issues most important to young women. She regularly covers breaking news, cultural trends, health, the royals and more, using her esteemed connections to access the best experts along the way. She’s grilled everyone from high-profile politicians to A-list celebrities, and has sensitively interviewed hundreds of people about their real life stories. In addition to this, Jennifer is widely known for her own undercover investigations and campaign work, which includes successfully petitioning the government for change around topics like abortion rights and image-based sexual abuse. Jennifer is also a published author, documentary consultant (helping to create BBC’s Deepfake Porn: Could You Be Next?) and a patron for YES (a youth services charity). Alongside Cosmopolitan, Jennifer has written for The Times, Women’s Health, ELLE and numerous other publications, appeared on podcasts, and spoken on (and hosted) panels for the Women of the World Festival, the University of Manchester and more. In her spare time, Jennifer is a big fan of lipstick, leopard print and over-ordering at dinner. Follow Jennifer on Instagram, X or LinkedIn.