Sound is capable of producing powerful reactions in the listener – whether it’s a sudden loud noise causing you to stop dead in your tracks, or the uncontrollable laughter of children as they play that brings a smile to your face.History is littered with tribal traditions of drums uniting tribes in ceremony, or songs that bring communities together in celebration that show the powerful effects sound can have on us.
The effects of sounds on our state of mind is never more profound as it is with music. Music can produce some of the strongest emotional reactions in humans, whether it’s happiness, sadness, fear or nostalgia. Sound is a series of vibrations that travel into the ear and get converted into electrical signals that are sent to the brain via the vestibulocochlear nerve. Your brain then tells you that you are hearing a sound and what that sound is.
When used in the right way sound has the ability to shift our perception of the world and ourselves. So I want to share three powerful ways that you can use sound to change your state of mind.
The healing sounds of nature
The sound of rolling ocean waves or the low rumble of a distant thunderstorm is known to put a person to sleep. Why? Science didn’t really understand this until recently. Researchers at Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS) found that playing ‘natural sounds’ affected the bodily systems that control the flight-or-fright and rest-digest autonomic nervous systems, with associated effects on the resting activity of the brain.
They noted: ‘When listening to natural sounds, the brain connectivity reflected an outward-directed focus of attention; when listening to artificial sounds, the brain connectivity reflected an inward-directed focus of attention, similar to states observed in anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder and depression.’
This is because as one of the basic laws of physics states that everything in life is a vibration. Nature has its own vibrations and when we attune ourselves with those vibrations whether spending time in nature or listening to the sounds of it, our vibrations harmonise with them and we shift states to be in alignment with that of nature.
Sing until your heart’s content
When we sing, the musical (or not so musical depending on your quality of singing!) vibrations move through us, altering our physical and emotional landscape. Singing releases endorphins, the brain’s ‘feel good’ chemicals, as well as stimulating among other hormones, oxytocin, known as the ‘love’ or ‘cuddle’ hormone.
Surveys of individuals who sing regularly report sustained high levels of emotional stability and well-being. Chanting sounds like ‘om’ or more correctly ‘aum’, which originates from the Vedic scriptures of Hinduism, has been shown to synchronise the left and right hemispheres of the brain, thus promoting a decrease in heartbeat, brain waves, and breathing. This is because you move your attention from external to internal, creating more balance and allowing the brain to recalibrate.
In one study researchers found that during ‘om’ chanting the regions of the brain that became deactivated, such as the amygdala and thalamus, which is involved in our emotions, were the same regions that became deactivated during electrical vagus nerve stimulation for treatments of epilepsy and depression. So whether it’s singing or even humming along to your favourite song or chanting the sacred ‘aum’, use it to help you shift your mindset if you are feeling low or just as a daily practice to promote healthy thinking.
Change your thinking
Most people don’t think about the sound of their own thinking and its effect on their mind. In my previous articles I pointed out how your thoughts carry a vibration that can have a major effect on your mind.
The work of Japanese author and researcher Dr Masaru Emoto highlighted the effects that sound whether spoken or thought, could have on water. Throughout the 1990’s Dr Emoto and his team performed a series of experiments observing the physical effect of words, prayers, music, and environment on the crystalline structure of water.
The results were nothing short of remarkable. Water that was exposed to positive vibrations such as the laughter, love, or even just a child playing nearby managed to shift the crystals into beautiful forms. Whereas negative behaviour and chaotic music did the contrary.
We have to remember that we are 60–70% made of water, so the results of this and other research highlights that our thinking, attitude, and even the people we surround ourselves with can have a major significance for our state of mind and overall well-being.
Sound in whatever form has the harm to create balance and harmony or to create trauma and chaos, so become conscious of the sounds you are creating for yourself and the sounds from the environments you spend the most time in, and see what effect they are having on you.
Dean Griffiths is the founder and CEO of Energy Fusion, the first interactive online platform to subjectively assess physical and mental health.