To Wind Down, Listen Up: All About Sound Therapy
There’s something so calming about a quiet spring evening: the birdsongs, the rustling of budding leaves in the wind as crickets chirp across the grass. Walking outside, closing my eyes, taking some deep breaths, and really listening to the sounds around me are all it takes for me to find myself feeling more relaxed.
While taking in sounds to decompress may feel like a natural instinct, there’s an emerging science behind it. Although sound has been used as a therapeutic tool for millennia (think Tibeten singing bowls), the benefits of sound therapy continue to be studied. While scientific research can be a slow process, people across the planet are experimenting on their own with sound therapy and reporting positive benefits for relaxation and mental health. Interested? You can try yourself with simple exercises at home.
Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR)
Whispering voices, soft repetitive sounds, definitive textures: ASMR videos channel soothing stimuli, seeking different “triggers” for relaxation. Some people who experience ASMR describe a tingling sensation beginning in the scalp and flowing down the spine. Many others who do not experience a physical reaction nevertheless find the trigger sounds deeply relaxing.
And what are these sounds? They can be anything from the clicking of fingernails running over the bristles of a plastic hairbrush, to the white noise of a hairdryer, to soft human whispers (painter Bob Ross’ shows are an ASMR trigger for some). Video role plays of relaxing experiences – such as a visit to a salon – are also popular. Whether you prefer visual or auditory stimuli for sleep, searching YouTube for ASMR videos is a good place to get started: from there you can see what soothes you.
The benefits of meditation for mental and physical health are well-documented. From stress-reduction to improving overall well-being, bringing meditation into our regular routine can help us approach our lives more calmly and thoughtfully, as well as improve relaxation. Yet beginning a meditation practice is difficult for many people. Living in this age of constant stimulation, finding quiet focus often feels challenging; so much so that many people abandon the practice before experiencing the benefits.
Guided meditation is a great way to experience the benefits of meditation, and it’s also great for beginners. An experienced practitioner will talk you through a routine that often involves bringing awareness to every part of your body. Most guided meditations also offer positive ideas, affirmations, and visualizations in order to improve your mindset. Since most of us are used to listening, having a voice to focus on can be easier than starting with another form of meditation practice.
Ready to get started? Very Well Mind recently put together a list of the six best guided meditations of 2021, each with a slightly different focus, so you can start with what you need most.
Nothing better tests the theory that soundwaves can change brainwaves than binaural beats. Think of them as a sound wave frequency shortcut for your brain. By playing slightly different low and mid-low frequency sound waves in each ear through headphones, your brain will “tune” to a new frequency. As Psychology Today explains it:
If your left ear receives a 300-hertz tone and your right ear receives a 280-hertz tone, your brain will process and absorb a 10-hertz tone. That’s a very low-frequency soundwave—one you can’t actually hear. But you don’t need to hear the sound for your brain to be affected by it.
In other words, listening to binaural beats tricks your brain into experiencing new soundwaves that many find beneficial and relaxing. According to Healthline, for the practice to work, the soundwaves must be less than 1000 Hz, and they must be no less than 30 Hz apart. Some scientists believe the soundwaves can slow the brainwaves themselves, leading to a state of calm.
The internet offers lots of binaural beats at the proper frequencies. You might want to start with this Spotify playlist.
As the world around us slowly begins opening up and we find ourselves with more daily activities—more daily noise—taking time to find quiet for ourselves and our well-being becomes even more important. Hopefully, this list will give you some ideas to try!
Have questions about sound therapy or other types of mental health therapy? Make an appointment with Green Harvest Health today.