Is Noise Pollution Affecting Your Mental Health?

Personally, I have never been one for loud venues…parties, clubs, concerts etc. People always say to me,” oh, come on it will be so much fun!” Yet somehow, deep inside of me, the anxiety begins to rise, the noises all around of strangers, friends and of course the thumping of the speakers, pushes my stress limit and I am only imagining the situation! I test my memory to try to decide when and where does this panic arise from? Is it valid or absurd?Anchorman and Brick quickly come to mind (probably my favorite comedy btw, closely followed by the sequel of course..wink.)  The scene is of everyone yelling and Brick shouts “Loud Noises!!” Why? Obviously the sounds are affecting his mental state, which we all recognize as fragile anyhow.The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines “noise” as “unwanted or disturbing sound.”
Hmm, taking that into account & if you LOVE loud music and the fore mentioned venues, our definitions of noise would be extreme polar opposites. However, noise is noise, whether car alarms, traffic or unwanted loud music all can lead to NIHL or Noise Induced Hearing Loss.

Throughout decades of war, prisoners have been exposed to sounds as a means of torture to break there mental state of being. Water drops being a widespread technique. Obviously unwanted noises can somewhat shatter our mental stability. No one wants to hear that car alarm going off for an hour, or that annoying ticking sound that you tear the house apart to find.
So how can we limit our exposure to noise in our everyday lives? I mean let’s be honest, noise is EVERYWHERE.  So much so that some people actually feel stir crazy if they are forced to sit in silence, yet silence is one of the healthiest mental exercises known in the CAM (Complimentary Alternative Medicine)industry. While researching this article I found that not only does it increase anxiety but the facts below were also quite interesting!

  • The leading cause of hearing loss is not aging but noise.
  • Excessive noise can lead to a whole host of other serious health problems. These include coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, stress-related health conditions such as migraine, colitis, and ulcers, and decreased sleep and sleep quality.
  • Excessive noise can lead to emotional problems such as mental fatigue, anxiety, and aggression.

Here are some of my favorite techniques to reduce noise induced anxiety.

Meditation: I have grown to love meditation. I live for the mental vacation from daily activities and of course the noise all around me. Meditation is for everyone. A great friend once told me the following advice on meditation “There is only one way to meditate incorrectly, do not meditate.” That being said no excuses needed, just habit and practice. Through many meditation sessions I have mastered my tune out technique (much to the chagrin of my 5 children). I can tune out unwanted noises at any moment, any time. From screaming children, my lovely teenage sone crunching his eco-unfriendly water bottles, to the basic rush hour in Panama City. I just let the sounds enter like the ebb and flow of the tides along the beach. Flow in flow out, until they just blend into the background. Anyone can do this, just takes practice

Headphones: Ok replacing unwanted noise with a more pleasing sound is obviously one of our most popular choices and less “new agey” than our previous option. Just make sure you do not crank up the volume so loud that you are encouraging NIHL while trying to cancel out the surrounding environment. Noise canceling headphones are an excellent investment and allow you to keep the sound on a low volume while not absorbing any outside noise.

Exercise: Exercise has long been proven to reduce stress and increase happiness through the release of serotonins in the brain. Whether a high impact class or a long walk, working out definitely helps us to block out the noise and focus on our own well being.

No matter what option you choose to help you cope with the noise of the world around us, make sure you are not exposing yourself so often to LOUD NOISES that your stress level is up and out of control and your patience so low that snapping becomes a habit rather than a wonder.

So now shhhhhh quiet please.

Sources:

Noise as a warning signal.”

Chepesiuk, R. “Decibel Hell: The Effects of Living in a Noisy World.”

http://www.hearinghealthfoundation.org/nihl-prevention

Goines, Lisa & Hagler, Louis, “Noise Pollution: A Modern Plague.

Meg Selig is the author of Changepower! 37 Secrets to Habit Change 

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