Whether you’re conscious of it or not, just about every day, when you listen to music, you could be harnessing the healing power of sound to energize, motivate, comfort, and/or soothe your mind and body. How often have you caught yourself humming, singing or whistling along to a catchy pop song, or tapping your foot to an irresistible beat? We all do it! Our primal response to sound and music is an important part of what makes us human and can and should be our ally in the healing process.
In my practice, I always encourage patients to bring enjoyable sounds into their day. It’s one of those simple, do-anytime things that enhances wellness and improves our quality of life almost effortlessly – just press ‘play!’ So, what is it about music and certain types of sound that makes it so health-supportive? Here’s my take on it – and why everyone should enjoy multiple doses of musical medicine:
Tune into an alpha state
I often include music in healing protocols for my patients, strategically playing calming tunes during acupuncture sessions. Calming and soothing the mind and body with the right music can induce an alpha state – that relaxed but alert feeling you get when activity ceases and you have a moment to reflect and recharge. When your brain is in alpha mode, you’re liberated from the grip of endless to-do lists, nonstop social media updates, the frantic 24-hour news cycle, and all of the anxiety they can generate. Alpha states are like a ‘time-out’ for your nervous system that can be consciously induced whenever needed, simply by tuning in to the right sounds.
Ride the (theta) waves of healing
Sound healing can even induce a theta state, one step beyond and below alpha, that slow-frequency brain state you get when drifting off to sleep or when you’re immersed in free-floating daydreams. But accessing alpha and theta states are not only about relaxation. Research has found that the body does some of its most profound healing when the brain is generating these types of neural waves.
It’s all about the BPM (beats per minute)
To easily slip into an alpha or theta state, you’ll need the right type of music. And we can define that with some precision – tunes with fewer beats per minute than your resting heart rate in order to escort you into that calm and healing space. Choosing music in the sixty BPM range (think Bob Marley and Reggae in general) is usually a safe bet, as are tracks composed of binaural beats. For helping patients access those quieter states, my first choice is always the music of Jonathan Goldman, a premier sound healer and expert in the field of harmonics. Unlike the cheesy ‘New Age’ music of yesteryear, Goldman weaves together sounds from ancient religions, harmonics, mantras, and multicultural musical traditions to create hours of otherworldly compositions that beautifully set the stage for alpha and theta states.
Select your sounds
So, how to heal with sound? Here are five easy ways to do it:
- Download a Johnathan Goldman album… onto your phone. I recommend Frequencies, a “best-of” overview of his sound-healing repertoire for relaxation and healing anytime you need it. Keep in mind though, it’s best to avoid operating heavy machinery – including your car – after you press play.
- Try a ‘sound bath’… the emerging wellness phenomenon which marries deep, intentional relaxation with sonic-wave healing. Some yoga classes now feature live music like cello, harmonium, or flute, with or without vocalists. You can also search for local “sound baths” or “sound meditations” at wellness studios, spas, acupuncture clinics, festivals, and even some boutique hotels! Picture lying in a state of relaxation while practitioners create relaxing, stress-busting soundscapes using kundalini yoga gongs, crystal bowls, tuning forks, or synthesizers tuned to specific frequencies. Besides the healting boost, many sound bathers report that slipping into theta state stimulates increased self-awareness and creativity. Another option to try is a hybrid experience that fuses meditation, music, hands-on modalities, and/or small doses of cannabis-derived CBD oils for an extra-relaxing effect.
- Try a drum circle or drum healing session. Drumming in a group, using hand drums, is a terrific healing option that’s often used to treat stress or trauma, enliven tired nervous systems, and quell anxiety and depression—and basically connect you to your primal self, empowering you from the inside out. It’s also a lot of fun!
- Listen to nature sounds … like ocean swells and bird song, real or recorded, at home or at work. You’ll help create a state of inner calm for yourself that will envelop anyone who enters your space.
- Make your own healing sounds… by singing in a chorus or choir to help relieve stress, cultivate new relationships and connect with your community in a joyful way. For those who don’t think they can carry a tune, consider a tonal singing session to learn this ancient, healing and meditative technique.