Ring. Beep. Buzz. Sing.
These are all of the sounds a typical smartphone makes in a pocket during the day if the user chooses not to silence it. Aside from the noise of smartphones, there’s always freeway traffic, leafblowers in someone’s yard, pundits arguing from the TV or radio and loud conversations in crowded restaurants.
Amid the hum of life, the sound of quiet can be scarce, and often forgotten — and it’s suddenly valuable. It’s a value that’s difficult to rate –– but one that can be necessary for mental health and, as one new study finds, even contribute to the local economy.
“We have fewer quieter places these days,” said Glenn Brassington, a psychology professor at Sonoma State University and Stanford University. “When noise is around, it evokes a response of ‘I need to do something.’”
Brassington, who works on mental performance with a broad range of clients from Division I athletes to Silicon Valley executives, notes one difficulty he has found is some people have never even experienced a quiet place. Some people may have never left their neighborhood in an inner city, and quiet is a new experience for them, Brassington said.
“One of the strategies I use is to have people go to a peaceful place and really have them soak it up to see how it affects their senses,” said Brassington. “Then when they’re back in their noisy environment, they need to practice going back to that place in their mind — often their heartrate will go down and their hands will get warmer.”
Brassington pointed out that, even unknowingly humans understand the power of noise and quiet, citing the juxtaposition of noise and quiet as a weapon in a football stadium.
“When I was working with the Stanford football team, the stadium would often grow quiet to allow our team to focus when there was a play coming up,” said Brassington. “But the crowd would of course be loud and stomp on the bleachers to distract the opposing team.”
Aside from the value in the mental aspects of quiet, a new report created by EcoNorthwest for the Pew Charitable Trust in July 2017 revealed “quiet recreation” activities produced an upswing in local economies surrounding certain locations managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management in northwestern California.
The term “quiet recreation” is defined by the report as not involving “significant motorized activity” and instead covers a wide range of other activities as “quiet recreation” including biking, hiking and camping.
The report examines data compiled from the year 2015 surrounding park visits and economic impact.
Visits to area lands managed by BLM near Redding and Arcata produced a total $41.2 million in revenue, with $29 million spent by outside tourists on food, fuel and other services.
A 2012 report from the Outdoor Industry Association reported more than 140 million Americans make outdoor recreation a priority and spend an estimated $646 billion a year on outdoor recreation, activities and gear — even more than household utilities and pharmaceuticals.
Despite the positive impacts of quiet both mentally and economically, it’s still a challenge for anyone in the modern world to find a quiet spot to contemplate.
Here are just a few local spots to chase the quiet: