Sound is powerful and primal. Music for example, can transport us back in time to certain memories and take us out of the present moment. In fact, your brain releases dopamine when you listen to music that you particularly enjoy.
And music is just one area of sound that is beneficial. Sound baths have been rising in popularity in the wellness world as a form of mindfulness. This practice involves listening to sound frequencies produced by instruments such as tuning forks, chimes, and gongs to reach a state of relaxation.
While it may seem a little “out-there” science is finally catching up with antiquity and research is showing just how beneficial rituals like sound baths are for your overall health. As a functional medicine practitioner who believes that seemingly “non-conventional” practices can be backed by some research, I’ve also seen firsthand the benefits my patients and myself have experienced from sound baths. Let’s dive in and look at the science behind this rising trend.
The Science Behind Sound Baths
What you may not realize is that your brain is an electrochemical organ, meaning the nerve cells in your brain can actually generate watts of electrical power. This electrical activity is emitted in brain waves that are categorized from low activity to high activity, with four in total.
The specific frequencies from sound baths have been shown to guide the brain into a receptive theta state. Theta brainwaves occur at a frequency between 5 to 8 cycles a second and is an overall calmed state. For example, when you are daydreaming you are often in a theta state.
Theta is ultimately a very positive and relaxed state of being where the flow of ideas is increased. In fact, do you ever find that your best ideas come to you while in the shower or driving down the road? You can thank your theta state for that.
Reaching this state is the same goal of meditation and breathwork, it’s just the tool to get there is different using sound frequencies instead of breathing techniques. And similarly to meditation, sound baths have been shown to help alleviate anxiety and depression.
One study published in the Journal of Evidence Based Complementary Alternative Medicine, looked at a group of sixty-two men and women and measured their levels of tension and overall mood before and after a Tibetan singing bowl meditation. The results found that participants across the board experienced significantly less anxiety, tension, and fatigue and felt happier after the session. Additionally, those who were participating in this type of meditation for the first time experienced these benefits stronger than those who were familiar with sound meditation.
Sound baths can even help with physical pain as well. Tuning forks used in sound bath meditations vibrate at various frequencies and have been linked to the release of nitric oxide. This free radical plays a role in positively affecting pain transmission and control. Additionally, nitric oxide acts as a defense against invading pathogens and bacteria in the body while also regulating the activity of immune and inflammatory cells.
How to Enjoy Sound Baths At Home
While you can sign up for guided group sound bath sessions, you can also experience the benefits in your own home by participating in a digital sound bath. All you have to do is download one of the many free sound bath meditations online and create a calming environment. Grab some blankets or pillows and either lay down flat or sit cross-legged, close your eyes, and press play. Ideally, you’ll want to listen through headphones for the best sound quality.
Reflection after your session is also just as important to your experience. Some people find journaling afterwards to be a great way to further calm and collect their thoughts and bring the session full circle.
Dr. Will Cole, leading functional-medicine expert, consults people around the world via webcam and locally in Pittsburgh. He specializes in clinically investigating underlying factors of chronic disease and customizing health programs for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal dysfunctions, digestive disorders, and brain problems.