Three Guidelines for
Choosing Music to Support
The right choice of sound or music can effortlessly:
- Create relaxation.
- Reduce pain.
- Boost your immune system.
- Diminish depression.
- Dissolve emotional blocks.
- Stimulate the natural healing ability of your body.
- Connect the hemispheres of your brain, enhancing creativity.
- Accelerate growth in consciousness.
- Give you peace, and so much more.
How does music do this?
Part of the answer to this question is entrainment and resonance.
Not many people know that when you walk into your local grocery store where there is music playing, it takes only minutes for your heartbeat to match the beat of the music.
There is no off switch to this response. It works whether or not you’re paying any attention to the music.
This process is called entrainment. Here are three guidelines to follow to use music and sound to support your wellbeing.
GUIDELINE 1: Tune in to Your Heart
Your heartbeat is affected by the beat of the music. This takes about five minutes.
Your altered heartbeat then affects your breathing rhythm and your brainwave state.
These three systems are intimately connected. When you affect one of them, you affect all three.
A relaxed heartbeat ranges between 50 to 70 beats per minute. To put this in perspective, 60 beats per minute is one beat per second. Most people already know what music in their collection to play to settle down or calm down. But may not know why it settles them down or how to choose other music that will do the same thing.
So, if you have had one of those hectic days and need to calm down, look through your music collection for one of your favorites that has a steady beat of one beat per second.
If you’re not sure how to do this, as you listen, count 1 thousand – 2 thousand – 3 thousand and so on, to approximate one beat per second.
Once you have found one of your favorite tunes with a beat close to this, listen to it for around five minutes or more.
You will find that your breathing will slow down, your heartbeat will slow down, lowering your blood pressure and you will begin to relax.
The reverse is also true. If you are on a long drive and need to stay awake, look for music with a lively beat to speed up your heartbeat and create more focus.
My favorites for long drives are big band dance music and lively Spanish guitar.
GUIDELINE 2: Change Your Tune
Resonance is defined as the frequency at which something naturally vibrates. Like a tuning fork, an oxygen atom, your desk, your cells, your heart. EVERYTHING has a natural frequency – or sound. Many of these natural frequencies can be affected or changed by other frequencies in the environment. This is called sympathetic vibration or forced resonance.
For example, when you walk into a busy mall, your resonance changes. The bright lights, music and crowds of people affect you. When you walk into a forest, your resonance changes. You may find yourself walking slower as you enjoy the sights and sounds of nature around you. You are an orchestra of frequencies of all of the sounds of every part of you – singing together all at once. This is your resonance. This orchestra, or your resonance, changes its tune all the time, as your thoughts and emotions change.
The resonance of a piece of music will also affect your personal resonance. Your resonance, beginning with your heartbeat, changes with the beat and rhythm of the music around you, as I mentioned earlier.
Your resonance is also affected by low sounds – like a tuba or subwoofer, and by high sounds – like flutes and birdsong. This leads to two principles to keep in mind when you want to use music or sound for your health:
Low frequency sounds and slow rhythms tend to discharge excess nervous energy, like stress, from your nervous system. When you have had a really tough day, reach for sounds that discharge that energy and create more relaxation – slow rhythms and deep bass.
High frequency sounds and fast rhythms charge the nervous system. When you need to stay more alert reach for higher frequencies, like flute, clarinet or birdsong, and faster rhythms.
GUIDELINE 3: Tune in to Nature
Three of the healthiest sounds that there are for the human being are water, birdsong and wind. The low sounds within water calm your nervous system, slow down your heartbeat lowering blood pressure, slow down your breathing and create a shift in brainwave state to the alpha state. A calming relaxation response.
Birds will stop singing if there is danger nearby. As our human family evolved in nature, birdsong always made us feel safe. We learned to listen for when the birds stopped singing. That’s what told us that danger was near.
In addition to helping us to feeling safe, birdsong consists of high sounds, which charges the nervous system. Also, you never know when a bird is going to sing. Their songs are totally unpredictable. Your brain loves patterns and constantly looks for them. But the brain can’t find any patterns in birdsong. So the result is, the brain becomes alert, focused and productive. Wind helps to give you your bearings. It helps you to predict the weather, warning you of an impending storm or allowing you to bask in the gentle sounds of a light summer breeze rustling the leaves of the trees.
I trust you now have a new way to look at your music collection!
Sharon Carne is an author, international speaker, sound therapist, publisher, musician and recording artist. From 1988 to 2016, Sharon was a faculty member of The Conservatory, Mount Royal University. In 2008 her work changed direction. Sharon is the founder of Sound Wellness, the Sound Wellness Institute and co-founder of the Emergent Workforce Program. Through the Sound Wellness Institute, holistic health practitioners receive the highest level of competency training in Canada in using sound and music to support their practice. The Emergent Workforce program is dedicated to restoring wellbeing, community, purpose, creative collaboration, and kindness to the workforce.