Picture this: You are sitting in your garden. It’s 10 am on a late spring morning. The sun is shining in a clear blue sky. The scent of new blooms and fresh growth wafts on the air as you take another sip of your rich, full-bodied coffee. It’s been a tough week, but right now, in this moment you begin to relax.
A couple of doors down, your neighbour starts up the lawnmower. Shortly after, the sound of two-stroke hedge trimmers echoes over the neighbourhood. The lawnmower abates, but now, in amongst the hedge trimmers you can hear a high pitched whine. The guy at number 23 is busy with his angle grinder again.
In their book ‘Your Brain On Nature: The Science of Nature’s Influence on Your Health, Happiness and Vitality’ by Eva M. Selhub, Alan C. Logan, the authors state:
Noise is a plague, and although most of us know that high volume on our headphones or hanging out near a jackhammer can damage our hearing, the low-grade stress induced by noise-producing machines continues to be underappreciated. Environmental noise promotes the production of stress hormones, places a burden on the cardiovascular system, compromises cognitive and academic performance, depresses the immune system defence, contributes to insomnia, and enhances the likelihood of depressive thoughts and anxiety. Ultimately, environmental noise catches up with us: we now know that prolonged exposure to environmental noise can decrease longevity itself.
In my twenties, I had a friend with affluent parents who lived in a very desirable, private residential area full of large houses, each designed by a different architect. There was a residents’ association, and I remember my friend telling me one of the rules was “No power tools to be used on Sundays”.
I shrugged this off as somewhat authoritarian at the time, but after enduring several years of suburban noise in my own neighbourhood in my thirties, I think they had a good point.
Noise is pretty much unavoidable in urban and suburban areas, and even in more rural areas, no-one is immune from the cacophony of garden maintenance and DIY. It’s part of modern life.
We can’t stop it, but we can manage it. Some local authorities provide guidelines — no DIY during unreasonable hours (before 8am or after 9pm), and some even disallow construction work on Sundays, but these guidelines don’t account for the onslaught of noise when the whole neighbourhood’s at it at the weekend.
Can’t we accept the impact that this sort of noise is having on our wellbeing, and in the interests of reducing stress and promoting wellbeing, let us have some respite from it?
Just one day a week?
A chance to recharge, to decompress in the comfort of our own homes.
Before it all starts again.