Want to be more productive at work? Relieve stress? Or get to sleep faster? Try these proven sound exercises and bring additional happiness and fulfillment to your life.
Welcome to Part 2 of my conversation with Lyz Cooper, founder of The British Academy of Sound Therapy. In our previous discussion, we talked about how to overcome a negative sound environment. This week, we’ll discuss ways to create a positive sound environment, one that helps us become more productive, happier and fulfilled.
Peter Hartmann: One takeaway from our discussion last week was the immense power of sound. Why do we as humans respond to sound in such powerful ways?
Lyz Cooper: Sound is inextricably linked to our survival. Early humans had non-verbal sounds to convey emotion, store memories and teach others what’s good and bad. Sounds were associated with all the necessary ingredients for survival: emotion, memory, feelings, food, and love. That’s why sound – and music, which is just organized sound – is more widely embedded in our brains than any other experience. We know this from studying people with dementia. While they may not be able to recognize their loved ones, many can still remember songs from poignant times in their lives.
Peter: How do we create a positive sound environment in our lives?
Lyz: Creating the right soundscape for the activity we plan on doing begins with knowing how sounds affect us. Low sounds tend to relax us while high pitched ones stimulate us, and slow rhythms relax us while faster ones stimulate us. We tend to innately know the right music for us. If we were really stressed out, we tend to choose to listen to something relaxing. On the other hand, if we were about to go clubbing, we would put on our favorite piece of dance music.
Peter: What other sounds can help us relax?
Lyz: Nature sounds are very calming. A little white noise in the form of leaves rustling through trees, gentle breezes, waterfalls or trickling streams are ideal for creating a relaxed state.
Peter: In a past blog, we shared a secret for improving our productivity by focusing intensely on a task for 90 minutes, then taking a 20-minute break, and repeating the process. Can we create a sound environment that helps us achieve this?
Lyz: Absolutely. For that period of intense focus, put together a playlist that combines uplifting, inspiring music with a fast tempo and punctuate it throughout with a couple of tracks that are acoustic or open – and do that for the full 90 minutes. Then in your 20-minute recharge time, choose two or three tracks that are very ambient – songs with open, longer, lower tones and lower frequencies, slower rhythms and less percussion or better still, download this sound therapy track, called Awakenings, that has been specifically designed to give you a “brain break,” close your eyes and drift. The sound may seem strange at first, but go with it and you will feel refreshed! Then gently ease back into a fast tempo to take you back into that intense, 90-minute zone.
Peter: What about helping us wake up and get going in the morning?
Lyz: There’s an exercise we call Sonic Caffeine that’s perfect for when you wake up or if you need some additional mental clarity. Just make a high-pitched EEEEEEEEEE sound for a few minutes. You’ll literally feel your skull vibrating. Do it for a couple of minutes and you’ll be buzzing, which is why we call it Sonic Caffeine.
Peter: Now let’s skip to the end of the day. What’s the best sound environment for winding down at night?
Lyz: Before bedtime, avoid music that’s high-pitched, complex, busy or uptempo. Then start winding down with some very ambient or relaxing music. Tracks like this one, called “Soundbath,” are great for relaxing.
There’s also an exercise called Sonic Hot Chocolate that you can do to help get to sleep. Just make a low-pitched AAAHHH sound you can feel reverberate through your body. A few minutes of doing it and you’ll be ready for bed.
Peter: We know that stress is a huge contributor to poor health. How can we create a sound environment to help us cope with stress or anxiety?
Lyz: I recommend creating a soundtrack of what I call your “life music” – music that’s uplifting and has a special meaning to you. Go through Spotify or another music service and find examples of music you associate with lovely times in your life – like music from your wedding, music you associate with the birth of your first child, the music you first fell in love to. Make a playlist and listen to it when you’re really feeling down.
There’s also a really easy exercise you can do if you’re anxious or stressed. It goes back to when we were babies in utero and the first thing we heard was our mother’s heartbeat. Slowly say in your head or tap your thigh to the rhythm of your heartbeat: lub-dub, lub-dub, lub-dub…. Or you can count it off: one-two, one-two, one-two…. It will quickly lull you into a relaxed state.
Peter: The impact sound can have on our health and well-being is quite amazing, isn’t it?
Lyz: Absolutely, and it’s so easy to do. The key to a healthier life is opening up our ears and letting the good, positive sounds in. In the future many of us will use “sonic vitamins” to adjust our moods and improve health. I’d encourage everyone to listen and try them by using the “Soundbath” track or other tracks that have been specifically designed for health and wellbeing.