Why Doing A Silent Meditation Retreat Improves Your Mental State
In a world impaired with the noise of social media and over-connectivity, new findings are emerging about the merits of silence and its therapeutic and healing properties.
People that continually feel trapped in a race against time, overwhelmed by their daily responsibilities; forever needing validation from outside sources may find that a silent meditation retreat helps them connect with the strength inside them and renew their purpose in life.
In the course of their lives, most people get used to a certain manner of doing things which are often chaotic and not fulfilling for the soul. An out-of-the-box experience like undertaking a silent meditation retreat can refresh and recharge, causing one to reconsider their priorities.
The extent to which science justifies voluntary silence as a regenerative exercise for our brain is worth knowing about along with the widespread benefits of opting for a silent retreat, especially if you are thinking about taking the plunge and booking yourself a spot.
Multiplicative Neurons And Enhanced Brain Activity
All neurons that are created by the brain do not necessarily improve brain function, memory, and health. However, a study done on rats (2013) in controlled situations of both noise and silence indicated strong results in favor of the latter. The results pointed towards exponential regeneration rates of functioning neurons in the mice that were given silence-based stimulus.
All human beings possess resting brain activity which usually occurs during deep self-reflection or meditation. This resting phase (introduced by a 2001 study) aids the combination of internal and external information to create a harmonious environment in the brain.
The ratio on the basis of which assimilation of information occurs differs from one person to another but people that took a vow of silence or stayed at a retreat for 10 days or less (depicted in a 2013 study) displayed better consciousness with regards to existential principles namely self-esteem, the purpose of life and so on.
A part of the brain that almost entirely deals with perception and practice of empathy (called the supramarginal gyrus) routinely needs healthy cell regeneration to function properly. If this is not achieved by a person’s lifestyle-related factors such as environment and diet, they can experience a decrease in empathetic responses and overall well-being.
The practice of going to a meditation retreat stimulates growth in this area which is why many people report an increase in self-awareness and self-knowledge after such an experience.
The application of silence to achieve harmony within and a peaceful aura within our own minds is not a new concept. It has been in practice for centuries in Buddhism and Daoism and many old religions possess a variation of this belief.
Many studies over the years since the 90s have shown a strong correlation between silence and the healing of trauma (particularly early-onset types) and PTSD; for which it has proven extremely beneficial.
The amygdala (a part of the brain) releases cortisol and other stress hormones when noise is interpreted by the brain which is why putting a stressed, unhappy or traumatized person in a silent meditation retreat can significantly improve their healing process.
Silence especially in combination with a serene environment; the kind that a yoga retreat or a meditation retreat can provide also causes serotonin and other regulatory hormones to release such as oxytocin and GABA which promote happiness and contentment.
For decades researchers and wellness specialists have spoken about a phenomenon called the Paleo-deficit which basically means that as the human civilization has grown advanced we have diverted from nature and its bounties such as natural light, organically sourced food, high physical activity levels and general proximity to greenery and fresh flowing water.
This deficit, in turn, has created an artificial existence which is incompatible with the well-being of our bodies and especially our brains, often causing severe depression and anxiety.
It goes without saying that natural elements such as sunlight and non-genetically modified food are healthful for the brain’s processes, tissue regeneration, and healthy hormone secretion.
The way that silent meditation retreats tie into this is that they are usually situated in a stunning natural environment where pollution levels and artificial man-made noises (such as those of cars or industry) are mostly absent.
A great example is the silent Titicaca retreat in Peru situated on the island Amantani where nature and its constituent elements are in abundance.
Shinrin-Yoku, a Japanese concept of forest bathing and being one with nature is very much in line with the Paleo-deficit theory since trials (Park et all 2010) showed that participants made to walk in heavily forested areas for 15 minutes displayed lowered levels of cortisol and detrimental sympathetic nerve activity.
How Silent Meditation Retreats Can Transform
- Silent retreats, in general, provide a social media detox by not giving guests access to the internet which means you cannot really contact people or keep in touch for the short period of time you are there. This also means you can clear your mind of emotional debris, constant reminders of people whose life seems better than yours and investments in relationships that don’t add value to your existence.
- The 21st Century lifestyle is emotionally draining for most people and a yoga holiday taken in a silent meditation retreat can provide a more holistic viewpoint to our purpose in life and what really matters.
- Mental clarity is undoubtedly part of the package at a silent retreat and you will find that your skills of empathy, self-reflection, and listening to your own body improve just by being there.
- A ‘healing holiday’ is what you can expect at a silent retreat which doesn’t have any of the clutter of a regular vacation. You get to tune into your own personal energy forces and understand the stressors in your life which are in direct conflict with your nature. In daily life you may pass them off as acceptable or to be expected without identifying them as toxic.
The ‘Attention Restoration Theory’ claims that environments which are low in sensory stimulation and input can drastically improve our cognition and memory. Hence holidays at silent meditation retreats can go a long way in improving your brain health.
It is also worthwhile to note that all of us have a very limited amount of energy which we can mentally and physically exert in the span of a day and so much of it is wasted in meaningless communication and discourse. If you can tune out of that modern necessity, you can utilize your energy for fulfilling and inspiring tasks.
There is a spiritual element to practicing silence for 7 to 8 days as it is reminiscent of the practices of monks who do the same for certain periods of time during the year to enhance clarity and channel an inner balance which is so easily lost in the modern world.
Incorporating a degree of silence even in one’s daily life can have more therapeutic benefits than aromatherapy and relaxing music according to a study carried out in 2006.
Consider booking a silent retreat for your next holiday to find out if its widespread benefits can better your life.