I had dreamed about it for years. There would be windows on all sides, with wood framing and all elements would reflect nature. I had such a clear vision of immersing myself amidst the flora and fauna - mornings sipping tea, a Sunday afternoon curled up in a comfy chair with a book, having dinner with my husband.
I would see the birds in all their splendid color, hear them chirping, and envision myself geeking out when I could identify each of their unique songs. Ah - a blue jay! That's a chickadee! Ohhh, and a finch!
So, several years ago we took the plunge and built a patio room.
It’s a beautiful space, a sanctuary for connecting with nature. Guests love it and often say they imagine we spend a lot of time there.
But the truth is – not so much.
Sometimes it’s the weather. I’m not of fan of hot, sticky humid summer temps.
The real issue is NOISE.
And I don’t mean the birds and crickets. Instead, my time in the space is often interrupted by the sound of cars and motorcycles from surrounding roads, planes from the sky overhead, and power yard tools - lawn mowers, trimmers and chain saws. This time of year, leaf blowers get thrown in to the mix as well. Ugh!
There never seems to be more than a moment of peace.
It drives me crazy – I just want to listen to the sounds of nature. I want a dose of Vitamin Q, as in Quiet!
I’d recently heard a park ranger speak about the impact of light pollution on our health and wondered about the effects of noise pollution too.
It was time for some research.
I found that background noise has been doubling nearly every three decades. Road traffic has tripled and planes are even audible 70 percent of the time in the remote backcountry of national parks.
So, I suppose it’s not surprising that I learned some rather interesting things about the impact of noise pollution on our health. To name but a few:
- Hearing loss - building up imperceptibly over time
- Sleep Disturbances - preventing sleep and disrupting sleep cycles
- Heart disease - elevating stress hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline, which build and can lead to high blood pressure, stroke and heart failure
- Stress – contributing to chronic levels which can lower your immunity to all disease
The toll was much more significant than you might think. In fact, one source reported an analysis which “suggested that a 5-decibel noise reduction would reduce the prevalence of high blood pressure by 1.4 percent and coronary heart disease by 1.8 percent. The annual economic benefit was estimated at $3.9 billion.”
The effects are mostly silent (pun intended), accumulating over time and the symptoms are often attributed to other, equally damaging causes.
How noticeable the infringements are also varies by person. I discovered that the need for quiet is stronger in introverts (that would be me), which helped to explain why I’m more irritated by the noise (and noise in general) than is my husband.
While there’s certainly no easy solution, it starts with awareness.
Biobehavioral psychologist Joshua Smyth suggests we think about soundscapes as medicine and intentionally seek quiet space 20 minutes a day.
I’m up for that challenge. While finding my quiet space is getting harder and harder, my quest won’t end.
I suppose I can try early mornings before the machinery cranks up. Or at least try to cover up the intrusion with noise-cancelling headphones, or ironically - crank up meditation music while I stare through closed glass windows.
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Wishing you a daily dose of Vitamin Q!