Whether you’re listening to your favorite song or playing your singing bowl, sound undeniably affects our feelings. We can well up with nostalgia, feel joy and excitement, or experience a deep and profound sense of calm.
But how we feel is only one indication of the impact sound can have. In the deep recesses of our bodies, sound alters many physical processes and internal structures. Have you ever felt brand new after a singing bowl session? This may be why.
A lot of the emotion sound evokes is courtesy of our hormones. Most of us are familiar with two in particular called endorphins and dopamine. Upon release, endorphins give us a temporary boost in happiness. Meanwhile, dopamine encourages us to keep doing more of the activity we’re enjoying.
The thing is, it’s not just listening to certain sounds that provokes their production. The physical acting of playing an instrument can help us produce more of these feel-good hormones.
Another hormone that’s responsive to sound is the stress hormone, cortisol. When we engage in relaxing practices and steady the breath, we can halt the production of excess cortisol. As it turns out, that’s beneficial to the immune system as well.
The Immune System
Dr. Mitchell Gaynor is the late oncologist and author of the book The Healing Power of Sound. He explained stress, sound, and the immune system in simple terms during an interview with the New York Times.
Dr. Gaynor points out that when we’re stressed, we’re more likely to get sick. Think about the times in your own life when you’ve been pushed to the limit, and finally came down with a cold. Stress hormones helped suppress the many functions of your immune system.
He, along with other doctors and practitioners, believed sound therapy is one way to potentially boost the immune system. “When the body is sick…it’s all a matter of the frequencies of the body being out of tune, off balance, out of synch. Vibration can help bring that back into balance,” he said.
Are you someone who notices that there’s a rhythm or pattern to nearly everything in this universe? If so, you recognize that our bodies are indeed part of this. Our brains use sound and rhythm to shift brain wave states, and this is a reflection of our physical experience.
Consider the four main brain wave states: Beta, Alpha, Theta, and Delta. These are characterized by a certain number of cycles per second, frequencies we measure as Hertz (Hz).
Theta and Delta are common during sleep. Beta is likely your day-to-day experience; you’re awake, focused, moving from task to task. But it’s the Beta waves that can become dominant, so we start seeking out more peaceful Alpha waves with activities like meditation.
With Alpha waves, we’re still awake, but relaxed. We may produce more serotonin, and be more accepting of new information. Mindfully taking in the sound and vibration of a singing bowl is one way you can help induce this chilled-out, life-optimizing brain wave state.
How has sound therapy helped you? How did you feel before and after your last sitting with a singing bowl? We’d love to hear all about it!