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How Listening to Silence Changes Our Brains

It’s not just your imagination. The world is literally louder right now than it’s been at any time in known history.

Even if COVID shelter-in-place orders brought a fleeting decline in decibel levels, the arc of modern life seems inescapable: more cars, helicopters, buzzing drones, pinging gadgets, ringing hospital monitors, blaring TVs in waiting rooms, and constant conversation in open-plan offices. Because emergency vehicles have to be loud enough to cut through the surrounding sounds, the decibels of their sirens are a useful measure of the loudness of our overall landscapes. Today’s sirens are an estimated six times louder than they were a century ago, indicating that our population centers are vastly louder, too. According to the National Park Service’s Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division, noise pollution doubles or triples every three decades.

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Psychologists highlighting the urgent need to reduce violence against teachers

Second-grade teacher Vicki Kreidel considered resigning this spring because interactions with parents each week left her feeling increasingly demoralized and inadequate. For 21 years, the southern Nevada teacher had enjoyed productive conversations with parents when she alerted them to academic or behavioral issues with their children, but in the wake of the pandemic, many of her students and their parents seemed to disregard civility norms. Children were yelling at one another and name-calling; parents accused her of biases against their children and anonymously reported her to the principal. Kreidel sometimes suffered from panic attacks after work, and the stress intensified her symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

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Why Thinking Hard Wears You Out

A workday filled with a string of mentally demanding tasks can leave you feeling drained. After long hours of mentally tracking one thought to the next, you’re probably more likely to choose a relaxing evening of streaming TV shows than to tackle a tough task on your to-do list or to make time on a creative pursuit. A new study provides a biological explanation for this familiar phenomenon: thinking hard leads to a buildup of chemicals that may disrupt the functioning of the brain.

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It's pumpkin spice season!


Read about the psychology of why we see so many pumpkin spice products every fall here