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Mindful Living

Using sound therapy to center yourself and find balance

Woman using singing bowl to practice sound therapy.
Camryn Rabideau
Camryn Rabideau November, 11, 2019

Baker, green thumb, living well with anxiety

Is there a particular sound you like to have on in the background? Maybe it's a recording of crashing waves or the chirping of birds outside your window in the morning (just not too early, please). Some people even prefer the noises of a busy city or the subtle hum of a plane midflight.

Given how relaxing these auditory cues can be, it's not far-fetched to say that sound has powerfully soothing properties. In fact, sound therapy has been used for thousands of years in cultures around the world — and it can be an incredibly beneficial practice to add to your own wellness routines.

Interested in giving this relaxing and restorative practice a try? Here's what you need to know.

What is sound therapy?

Also called "sound healing," this type of therapy uses music or other sounds to improve one's physical and emotional wellness. This description encompasses many kinds of sound-based therapies, including ones that incorporate instrumental vibrations, guided meditation, breathing exercises and even physical touch. It all depends on what works best for you and aligns with your preferences.

We know what you're thinking: But how does sound improve your well-being?

Tibetan singing bowl in sound meditation therapyNate Martinez, a sound therapy practitioner in New York, explains that sound can actually alter your brainwaves. Essentially, music provides a stable frequency that your brainwaves naturally sync up with, helping to slow your mind and bring your body back to a balanced state — similar to the positive effects of meditation!

Who can benefit from this type of therapy?

Because it helps relax your mind, sound therapy has been found to be an effective shield against anxiety and depression, according to research published in the journal Medical Science Monitor. People who swear by this therapy say the benefits include reduced stress, better sleep and lower blood pressure and cholesterol. The practice is also used to minimize the effects of chronic pain and certain other health concerns, but as of yet not much research has been done on its effectiveness in these cases.

You don't have to have a physical ailment to enjoy the practice — pretty much everyone can benefit from sound therapy! The New York Times notes that an effective session can leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, similar to waking up from a good night's sleep. Who doesn't want that?

With our minds constantly racing as we navigate busy schedules, we could all use a little bit of relaxation and inner balance from time to time. Practicing this form of sound-based therapy can help you feel healthier and take control of the obstacles that crop up.

How to use sound in your daily life

If you want to get the full sound therapy experience, you'll need to find the right environment. Check out local yoga and meditation studios to see if they host gong baths or another type of sound-based healing practice. These sessions are typically an affordable way to get to work with an experienced practitioner.

However, you can also practice sound exercises on your own! There are many free sound-based meditations accessible online that you can incorporate into your daily routines or save for the next time you're feeling stressed out.

If you really get into the practice, you may even want to invest in your own singing bowl, a common tool used by practitioners. Rubbing a mallet along the outer rim of the bowl creates pleasant-sounding vibrations and frequencies that are believed to have soothing properties, according to a study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion.

Keep in mind that there's no right or wrong way to use sound-based therapy, and no specific sounds you have to use — if you find it relaxing to simply listen to a noise machine before bed, then stick with what works! Many people experience calming effects from their favorite music or ambient noises, which might be more accessible options than professional sound healing therapy sessions.

When you open your mind to new types of relaxation techniques, you gain new tools that allow you to work through tough issues, understand yourself better and calm your mind. Go ahead and take a chance! You might just discover a healthy new habit.

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