Our emotions and senses are deeply intertwined. Each of the five senses, sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell, feeds important information about our environment back to our brain to make sense of the world around us.
Incorporating more of the senses into your self-care routine is an effective way to relax and ground yourself. Sensory self-care is a powerful tool and can help to level up your well-being routine.
Self-care has become a popular tool for managing life’s stresses and strains. The term refers to activities a person intentionally engages in with the goal of promoting physical and mental well-being.
In particular, focusing on the sense of sound to create auditory self-care experiences has many benefits, such as managing stress and anxiety, increasing feelings of calm, and promoting mindfulness.
That said, Katie Ogden, audiologist and training manager of ReSound, provides expert insight into how we can promote well-being through sound to take your self–care routine to the next level.
Katie explains: ‘Self-care varies from person to person, but being mindful about our sense of sound can help us to have more engagement in self–care activities.’
‘Our sense of sound is often overlooked regarding self-care techniques, but it is just as effective as others when trying to promote a positive mental state. Hearing helps with our equilibrium, which helps keeps us balanced and focused.’
Self-care through music
Sounds stimulate the brain and are important because they connect us to the world and help form memories. The brain preserves many forms of memory, including echoic memory. This refers to the sensory memory that stores information from sounds you hear.
Music is a big component in memory recall and is often used in self-care practices to relax. Research has found that it triggers a dopamine release, instantly improving mood.
As music can trigger feelings of nostalgia, it is a common technique to aid comfort and reduce stress, as it helps lower heart rate and cortisol levels and release endorphins which improve our sense of well-being.
Listening to music cannot only entertain but also improve memory functioning and increase the rate of healing.
Katie states: ‘Music is a great way to wind down and relieve stresses from everyday life. Slower tempo music helps to quiet your mind and relax your body, whereas faster and more upbeat music encourages feelings of optimism and concentration.’
Self-care through nature sounds
The average person spends 87% of their time indoors, but spending time outdoors or listening to nature sounds is a great way to disconnect from everyday life. Nature sounds are not only calming but have profound health and well-being benefits.
Running water, birds singing, rainfall, and trees rustling are all examples of natural sounds which can help soothe the mind and relax the body. Natural sounds and green environments have historically been linked to relaxation and well-being as a previous study found them to reduce blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones.
Katie suggests: ‘Some easy ways to incorporate nature sounds into your self–care routine are keeping the window open when relaxing or studying, taking a walk through a park or forest, spending time by a stream, river or the sea, or listening to a nature sounds playlist whilst having a bath, doing your skincare or drifting off to sleep.’
How to incorporate sounds into a self-care routine
White noise machines
White noise is a continuous sound which often has no pattern or rhythm. It can be used in self-care practices to help with feelings of anxiety or sleep deprivation. This is because it engulfs our total hearing range (20-20,000 hertz), which helps mask loud sounds that stimulate the brain, making it a useful distraction from unwanted environmental noises.
Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) has become a phenomenon in recent years on the likes of YouTube and TikTok. It has become very popular within the self–care world as it creates ‘brain tingles’, a calming sensation experienced in response to certain audio or visual stimuli.
Listening to ASMR while studying, relaxing or going to sleep helps to encourage feelings of calm and relaxation. Popular sounds, or ‘triggers’, used in ASMR include tapping, crinkling, water sounds, hair brushing, whispering, scratching and typing.
Candles made with a wood wick instead of a traditional cotton string create a soothing crackling sound while burning, similar to the sound of a fireplace with wood logs. They are a great way to introduce more natural sounds to your self–care routine and create a calming atmosphere.
Storytelling has a wealth of benefits for adults, just like it does for children. Reading before bed has long been recognised as a way to wind down and settle the mind at the end of the day. In recent years, audible sleep stories have grown in popularity as they provide a soothing experience which offers the same story time feel with a more meditative spin.
Saying positive affirmations out loud is great for your self–care routine. Affirmations are encouraging statements that help to restore a more positive state of mind. Try to repeat affirmations to yourself throughout the day, such as when you’re getting ready for work, before going to sleep or first thing in the morning.
Some example affirmations are: “My hard work will pay off”,”I am confident”, “I will find the good in all things”, “I love myself” and “I am safe”.
LoFi music is quickly becoming one of the most popular styles of music as it creates the perfect ambience and is a great way to focus and relieve stress. LoFi music typically has no vocals and takes inspiration from jazz, hip-hop and electronic music.
Katie adds: ‘Protecting your hearing is important as many people will find their ability to hear certain sounds begin to decline around 50. But other causes of hearing loss can affect people much earlier in life.’
‘Some signs you may be experiencing hearing loss include asking people to repeat themselves, and people sound like they’re mumbling or whispering, having difficulty with phone conversations, the TV or radio is on the top volume or avoiding noisy places as they’ve become difficult to handle.’
‘When it comes to dealing with a hearing impairment, many treatment options are available. It’s important not to feel alone or isolated if you are affected by hearing loss.’
It’s important to keep a check on your hearing. If you feel like you or a loved one may be experiencing hearing loss, the ReSound online hearing test provides a quick and easy way to find out how well you’re hearing. It’s also advised you seek further advice from a hearing care professional.