Physical stuff—the boxes of baby clothes in the garage and stacks of unprocessed paper in the office—isn’t the only clutter that can impinge on a person’s serenity. The sounds in our environment, like the physical clutter, impact calm, concentration and overall quality of life. Take time to notice the noise in your home, workplace and travels, and make changes for the better.
First things first—the morning alarm clock. Most are incredibly annoying, as if we wouldn’t possibly rouse from a cozy bed unless a Fran Drescher-like whine mixed with a buzz saw wailed at full volume. If the first thing you hear in the morning startles and annoys you, think about replacing your alarm with something sweeter.
When I travel I set my iPhone alarm to play one of my favorite songs, Bjork’s “Alarm Call.” I also like alarm clocks that start out with a quiet beep but get louder the longer you let it go until finally you can hear it from another building. I’ve never tried one of those clocks that emits a light that gets brighter and brighter (light being able to wake us almost as well as sound), but I like the idea.
Many sounds interrupt and startle us throughout the day. Nothing will impede productivity like being at the beck and call of every cell phone and computer ping, ring and vibration. Put your phone and computer on mute while you are working so that you can focus without distraction This is one of the “duh” tips I give my clients—we have the power to decide if we want to be interrupted or not. Do you really want an e-mail ping from some random newsletter interrupting your flow?
When I was shopping for a car, one of the reasons I wanted a Prius is that I love music and hate the sound of engine noise. The Prius is so quiet that my music sounds undistorted or I can just enjoy a silent drive with my thoughts. The other day a snazzy car passed me and the growl and snarl of it, mixed with a shaking can of nuts and bolts made me actually pity the poor Porsche owner.
When traveling, be prepared for noisy hotel rooms. Even at home sleep can be interrupted by road noise in the city and roosters or coyotes in the country. When you seriously need to sleep, wear earplugs. The best for comfort and blocking sound that I’ve found are Mack’s disposable wax earplugs, available at pharmacies. The containers they come in are also great for storing bobby pins, paper clips, AA batteries, vitamins for traveling, and all kinds of things.
Lastly, you can control the sounds in your own environment for the most part, but don’t be afraid to also ask for alterations in the soundscape when you are out and about. As a customer in a salon or restaurant, you should ask to have the volume adjusted if it’s uncomfortably loud. You can request a station change or even silence. There’s no harm in asking and often others will appreciate it. Without being inconsiderate or obnoxious, you can make a little noise –a politely squeaky wheel—to get the peace of mind you crave.