we had a power outage a few weeks ago that lasted for eight hours. fortunately, the weather was fine – if you must have a protracted loss of power, i recommend early october.
i thought about it yesterday as i was turning off the living room light before heading to bed. the ceiling fan apparently has a high-pitched whine i’d never noticed but was such a relief to have it cease. as i walked by the refrigerator, i was struck by how loud the humming was. the more i listened, the louder the house got; so many noises make up a household. i thought “how noisy it is” when poof, just like that, i remembered the day the power went out.
i remember thinking how quiet it was and how peaceful. the lack of sound was pure bliss. i didn’t even know it was something i needed until i came across it.
we live in a very noisy world.
there are the obvious sources of noise: loud televisions, music blaring through headphones, phones ringing and pinging with calls and notifications, vacuum cleaners, and annoying neighbours who feel compelled to start blowing leaves at seven on a saturday. the solutions with these noises are simple enough – turn down the volume, leave the room, and shoot the neighbour with a sleeping dart.
but what about the less obvious, persistent and consistent low-level noise we’re inundated with?
even as i sit here, in a relatively quiet house i’m aware of the furnace fan whirring in the background, the computer humming in front of me, the ceiling light’s high-pitched hiss, and the washing machine running through its cycles at the other end of the house. it’s ostensibly quiet since i don’t have the tv or stereo running in the background, but silent it ain’t.
these kinds of background noises are inescapable even when you’re outside. i wanted to listen to the birds this morning as i sat on the deck with my coffee in hand. they were there, chirping away, but it was hard to pick them out from the noise made by the plane overhead, the cars on the street, the garbage truck trundling along a couple of blocks over, and hooray, here comes a train.
silence is golden. we need it. we need it like we need air and water. we get it far too seldom.
persistent noise is a stressor. it keeps us mildly agitated all the time. even when we think it’s quiet, it isn’t. the constant agitation leads to a low-level of annoyance that’s ready to bubble up at the least provocation. we’re all closer to a meltdown than we like to admit. who can blame us; our environment constantly amps us up.
noise overstimulation also has a negative impact on sleep. it’s hard to rest when it’s not quiet. it’s hard to get the kind of quality sleep we need when even at rest, we’re being stimulated.
what to do then, to deal with the problem and relax and calm down? as it turns out, this is a job for the three “r”s of noise reduction – remove, reduce, and rest.
get rid of as much ambient noise as you can. turn off and unplug electronics that you aren’t currently using. leave the lights off if you don’t really need them. power creates a low-level hum and as the number of working or plugged-in items increases, so does the volume and the degree to which it’s agitating.
skip having the television or radio on in the background. get used to living with your thoughts.
keep the volume on electronics low. don’t regularly turn it up to ear-splitting levels, be it at home or in your car.
look for lower decibel appliances as you replace the ones you own. apparently, that’s a thing. wish i’d known before i replaced the ‘fridge.
limit the amount of time you spend on headphones. even lower volumes have an impact on overall levels of agitation.
wear ear protection when you’re using things that make a significant amount of noise – lawn mowers, leaf blowers, even the vacuum.
take a break. have a noiseless day or even a noiseless hour. turn off everything. you can even throw the breaker, shut down the power for a bit, and relish the quiet. your refrigerated and frozen items will be okay for an hour or two.
invest in noise-cancelling headphones and wear them unplugged. you’ll enjoy having a bubble of silence.
head out into nature, away from the noise, and away from the world. walk far enough out so that the hum of cars is an unpleasant memory. sit. enjoy the peace and quiet. relax