The world was created by sound, according to stories from Hopi, Egyptian, Christian, Aboriginal, Hindu and Mayan cultures. And ancient civilizations, including Mesopotamia, India, China, Greece and Aboriginal cultures understood that individuals and society are shaped by the kind of music people listen to. In China, for example, when the Emperor wanted to assess the well being of a village, he listened to their music. Music that was unhealthy was banned, because it was known to undermine social cohesion.
A growing body of Western medical research confirms that the right sounds promote healthy functioning of the immune, endocrine, and autonomic systems. Dr. Oliver Sacks, a neurologist and author ofAwakenings writes, “The power of music to integrate and cure is quite fundamental. It is the profoundest non-chemical medication.” One physician says that half an hour of the right music produces the same effects as 10 mg. of Valium! Some of the other benefits of the right sounds include:
- Reduced stress and pain
- Release of grief, depression, anxiety
- Strengthened immune system
- Creation of more harmonious relationships
- Increased joy, confidence, and sense of purpose
But what about harmful sounds, like noise pollution? Dr. Larry Dossey states that noise pollution is probably the most common modern health hazard. Even if you tune out loud sounds, they still penetrate your body. Dr. Dossey explains, “High levels of unpleasant sounds cause blood vessels to constrict; increase the blood pressure, pulse, and respiratory rates; release extra fats into the bloodstream; and cause the blood’s magnesium level to fall.” Hearing is never turned off, even under anaesthesia. Aversive sounds are increasing our stress levels exponentially. So how can we counteract that?
Tip #1: Listen to Music that Makes Your Heart Sing
The Persian poet, Hafiz, referring to our emotional response to music said, “Stay close to any sounds that make you glad you are alive.” Whether a sound is calming or stimulating depends not only on the nature of the sound itself, but also on the relationship you have with that sound. You may have certain memories—good or bad—associated with it. And you won’t react the same way every time you hear it. Your responses will vary from day to day. Respect how sometimes you crave something peaceful; other times something lively or mournful.
Tip #2: Be Mindful of the Lyrics
Choose songs with positive lyrics. Positive thoughts, combined with music, have an almost unequalled ability to instil a sense of life-affirming optimism and harmony. Avoid music with hate lyrics and beats that disrupt natural body rhythms. It’s shocking to know that some musicians deliberately use music to incite violence. For example, “John Phillips of the group The Mamas and the Papas stated, ‘by carefully controlling the sequence of rhythms, any rock group can create audience hysteria consciously and deliberately. ‘We know how to do it,’ he said. ‘Anybody knows how to do it.’ “The band then proceeded to prove it at a concert in Phoenix, Arizona. Using a certain combination of rhythms, they incited a riot.” [Tame, David. (1984) The Secret Power of Music, 154]
In another instance, Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones performed a song with hate lyrics and specific rhythms that caused audience members to inflict severe injury and death. He commented, “Something like that happens every time we perform that song.” This type of music is an extreme health hazard.
Tip #3: Listen to Mother Nature
Some of the healthiest sounds are made by water—ocean waves or bubbling brooks which calm your nervous system, slow down your heartbeat, lower your blood pressure, slow down your breathing, and put your brainwaves into the calm alpha state. High-pitched bird songs energize the brain, and help you stay mentally relaxed and focused. So get outside or listen to high quality nature recordings.
Tip #4: Steer Clear of Noise Pollution
Protect your hearing. Continued exposure to sounds over 100 decibels can cause gradual deafness. Once your hearing has been damaged, it cannot be regenerated. In many countries, 85 decibels is the maximum noise volume allowed in work environments. Therefore, avoid loud environments or use ear plugs. When listening to music through ear buds, keep the volume low enough so that you can still hear other sounds around you. Here are the noise volumes of some typical situations. If you want to measure the loudness of others, use a decibel meter app. It’s eye-opening!