Whether to help focus on a task, soundtrack a commute or keep us going while on the treadmill, we listen to music all day long. Music accompanies life’s milestones and every manifestation of it, from birthdays and weddings to funerals, forming part of every culture from East to West, throughout history to today.
However, we rarely consider what happens to us when sound comes to strike our ears. For sound therapist and board member of the International Association of Music Medicine, Lyz Cooper, sound has the power to transform our health and wellbeing.
Having just presented at a music medicine conference in Beijing, Cooper explains, “Sound was a necessary part of our survival as a species, and this is why sound affects us so deeply today and why sound therapy is so effective.”
Sound therapy – the art of using sound frequencies and harmonics to heal the body emotionally and physically – is growing in popularity. Perhaps it is a sign of the times, but today’s busy, pressurized lifestyles have more and more of us seeking alternative ways to relax.
In modern life we are constantly being bombarded by signals and alarms that our bodies are interpreting in a subconscious way. At the beginning of human evolution, certain sounds such as a high-pitched scream signalled danger and therefore created a ‘fight or flight’ response. According to Cooper, we still have this innate response to high-pitched sounds, such as car horns. “You will give yourself a shot of adrenaline each time you hear an alarm, which is why constant traffic can cause tiredness as the deep rumbling sounds trigger an ancient stress response as these sounds mimic an earthquake.”
According to Cooper, sound therapy can help reduce stress and stress related problems such as insomnia and anxiety and can also help with pains, chronic fatigue and muscle spasms. “It does this by relaxing the body and mind into a deep state where natural cell repair, muscle relaxation and the reduction of stress hormones, blood pressure and relaxation of the autonomic nervous system can occur,” she says.
To induce the perfect state of relaxation, sounds should be less than 60 beats per minute, which is less than the resting heart rate, and enables to the body to slowly match the pace. The pitch should be low and drifty as high tones will stimulate, and instruments with a soft timbre such as harps, flutes and nature sounds can soothe a restless mind and body.
These sounds will help the blood pressure and heart rate drop, triggering a decline in the stress hormone cortisol and an increase in the pleasure chemical dopamine, automatically relaxing the nervous system.
The full effects of sound on our bodies is still very much a new field, but with stress at the root of much of the disease we have today, there is more on sound science than ever before. It’s only a matter of time before we swap our pills for a dose of sonic medicine.
From now until August 29, visit our Relaxation Room in store at Lane Crawford ifc mall to experience the power of sound.