Life can hand you the unexpected. Most of us have experienced the stressful feelings that seemingly turn on automatically when those unwelcome surprises are left at our doorstep. We all have to find ways of dealing with the pressures of life. It should go without saying that different people deal with the pressures of life differently.
Some people workout, others stress eat, and still others make time to meditate. Meditation has been used by people for many years as a preferred way to handle stress, anxiety and help with self-discovery. And just like exercises, there isn’t just one type of meditation that is a perfect fit for everyone as people have different tastes. One particular type of meditation that has been gaining popularity is sound meditation. Have you ever heard of this type of meditation? If not, you are in the right place to get your introduction as we will highlight all the basics about this meditation and why you should try it.
What Is Sound Meditation?
From the name, it is very easy to make a calculated guess as to what it is. Sound meditation is a focused awareness type of meditation that uses sound to help calm one’s body, mind and promote a sense of overall well-being (2). It uses sound to help people relax, meditate, to promote self-inquiry and self-discovery. Since sound has to be produced in one way or another for it to happen, there are different instruments such as singing bowls, harps, chimes and more which are used to create the different sounds (2).
Even though you may be just now hearing about this particular type of meditation, it is not a new practice. Many tribes like the Aboriginal communities from Australia and even monks from Tibet have been using the healing power of sound since time immemorial. In addition to that, people from the time of the ancient Greeks used sound vibrations to help with digestion, treatment of mental disorders and to help promote a better quality of sleep and prevent insomnia (3).
Although science has not come to a definitive position on the use of sound in health yet, when it comes to vividly proving the healing properties of sound, a few studies have shown there is some truth to its efficacy. There are physical benefits that can be associated with sounds like improving one’s mood and reducing stress. Here is one study that was done which has been used to support that sound meditation is really a thing to consider.
Scientific Evidence To Prove That Sound Meditation Is A Thing And It Works
One way of proving something scientifically is by experimenting, and this is what these people did. A group of scientists did an observational study on the‘ Effects of Singing Bowl Sound Meditation on Mood, Tension, and Well-being’(1). The study consisted of 62 participants of both genders. The people were from age 21-77, and their mean age was 49.7 years. The study was conducted in three different places.
Before the study could start, the participants had to fill out some questionnaires. The questionnaires included a short profile on one’s mood state, tension, anger and confusion level, and one’s anxiety and depression scale (1). This makes sense because you need to have prior measurements as a comparison in order to know if the meditation session really worked. But that was not all; the participants had to answer if they had had a prior encounter with this type of meditation. The reason for this question was that having a prior encounter with this type of meditation might have affected a person’s results.
Other things that could affect the results included substance use, the medication that one was on, over-the-counter supplements and so on, were also tackled in the questionnaire. The participants were routinely asked if they were experiencing any pain, and if so, they were to rate the pain on a scale from 1-5. Throughout the study period the participants were also asked two questions. The first one is whether they had been able to fall asleep and the second if they were still experiencing physical pain and if so, were still asked to rate the pain at this point.
How The Study Was Done
The participants were to sit down on mats in a semicircle around the room with their head pointed towards the instruments that were presented (1). Some of the instruments that were there included the Tibetan singing bowls, crystal singing bowls, the didgeridoos and much more. The singing bowls were the main instruments and were used most of the time. The researchers could either tap them or strike time them to create the sound and vibration they wanted. The instruments were played in a particular pattern each time, and the meditation took about an hour. At the start of the meditation, a singer would speak to the participants in a soothing sound, giving them simple instructions like to lie-down and such.
Results Of The Study
From the study, the following was able to be noted. When the endpoint measurements and results were compared to the data that was collected before the study, there was a significant difference between the two measurements as related to the different factors that were being investigated. In terms of tension, the participants had lower levels of tension thus giving credence to the historical reports that this type of meditation helps increase feelings of relaxation and decrease all types of stressful feelings (1). In addition to that, the level of depression and anxiety had also reduced, and there was an increase in feelings of spiritual well-being.
That was not all that was observed. People who had never had a prior encounter with this type of meditation showed greater results compared to people who had ever done sound meditation before (1). Age was also a factor as the results showed that people between 40 to 59 years old had a significant change in their tension levels compared with the other people (1). That is not all; people from age 40 to 59 also experienced the largest reduction in physical pain.
Remember in all these results, the reductions were greater with people who had never experienced that mediation before. Even though all of the 40 to 59 years olds had experienced greater tension level reduction and physical pain reductions, those who had never done this experienced the greatest results. Thus the study went on ahead to establish that indeed sound meditation holds its own and can be used to reduce tension, anxiety, stress, and depression levels and increase a feeling of spiritual well being. There are many theories as to why sound meditation works as it works, and one of the theories is discussed below.
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How Sound Meditation Works
As we have seen above, sound meditation is a thing, and it actually works, but what makes it work. A theory has been formed on the effects of binaural beats in which the brain entails the hertz difference between different tones played in each ear, focusing the brain on changing its brainwaves (1). Thus within the scientific community there are people who believe sound meditation works by being able to make a person change their brainwaves. To understand this better, we need to know something about the different brain waves that exist. There are four categories that exist, and each variation is different as they all have different degrees of activity, alertness and consciousness.
First, we have beta brain waves (6). These are the fastest brain waves, and they occur when one’s brain is active and engaged mentally. They usually demonstrate a state of alertness, concentration and reaction.
Alpha brain waves are second. They usually occur when our brains are relaxed (6). A good example of when you are likely to have such brain waves is when you are relaxing after a task or something.
Theta brain waves are next on the scale and are associated with daydreaming (6). They are usually associated with rapid eye movement. This is also the mental state associated with ideas and creativity and is also known as the meditative state.
Finally, the delta brainwaves. These are the slowest brainwaves (6). They are associated with deep, dreamless sleep when resting, and healing can occur.
The argument has been made that different frequencies can lead one’s brainwaves to change from one state to another. With the right frequency, one can, for example, be able to jump from the beta brainwaves to alpha or even theta brainwaves.
A renowned sound therapist and meditation teacher believes this to be true. As we said earlier, different instruments are used during this meditation. She says the sound of harmonic vibration that is usually created by these instruments tends to stimulate the alpha and theta brainwaves (5). As we have seen, alpha brainwaves are associated with a relaxed state of mind while theta brainwaves are associated with the meditative state of mind. According to this therapist, this is the most powerful effect of using sound to meditate; the ability to change ones consciousness (5).
Tools Used During Sound Meditation
Instruments are part and parcel of the whole sound meditation experience. Different instruments are used to create different frequencies and vibrations that help one move from one state of mind to the other. Here are some of the kinds of equipment you are likely to use if you are going to engage in this kind of meditation.
Singing bowls (8)
When you strike singing bowls, they produce a healing tone. These bowls are usually not uniform, and so if you are out buying one, it is better to test each one before you buy it to which one resonates with your senses. Each bowl usually has a different musical note. Some people use each bowl alone to create a single musical note while others play a couple of bowls simultaneously to create a symphony of healing tones.
Tuning forks (8)
These forks have existed since the 18th century. They work with almost the same principle as singing bowls where they produce a certain tone when struck an object or when an object strikes them.
Rattlers and rain sticks
Benefits Of Sound Meditation
Most commonly the reason people do things is because of the benefits they are likely to get from doing the thing. Sound meditation has a number of benefits, as will be highlighted below.
Sound meditation helps with pain perception. Nobody likes pain, and this is a fact. Sound meditation was seen to reduce pain in a clinical study that was done on the effect of low-frequency sound stimulation on patients with fibromyalgia (4). This study did not have a control group as it was an open-label study. It involved 19 female volunteer participants. The participants underwent 10 sessions which were two per week for five weeks. Sessions were 23 minutes long and involved low-frequency sound stimulation at 40 hertz. Various measures were taken for the sleep scale, pain disability index, sitting and standing without pain, cervical muscle range of motion and muscle tone, before and after the study.
The results showed significant improvement in the levels of sleep, and the participants experienced reduced pain. 73.68% of the individuals who participated in this study had their medication dose reduced while 26.32% of the individuals had their medicine completely stopped (4). This shows that low-frequency sound stimulation has positive effects on people on treatment for fibromyalgia. In general, sound meditation is a useful tool for reducing pain.
Sound Meditation And Stress
Sound meditation helps with reducing tension, anxiety, stress and promoting a feeling of spiritual well-being. This was seen from the study, Effects of Singing Bowl Sound Meditation on Mood, Tension, and Well-being, that was discussed in earlier parts of this read. Those participants had reduced tension levels, anxiety and stress levels after going through this meditation (1).
Sound meditation helps with deeper, better sleep. This is achieved through the ability of sound to change one’s brainwaves. With the right frequency, you can change from the beta to delta brainwaves. Delta brainwaves are associated with deep sleep as we said earlier.
Those are some of the benefits associated with sound meditation.
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What Is A Sound Bath?
We wouldn’t be doing this topic justice if we didn’t tell you what a sound bath is, as it is closely associated with this type of meditation. A sound bath is a meditation method that aims to guide you into a deep meditative state while in a closed ambient space where different sounds are played (3).
To put it into other words, a sound bath is a meditation session for sound meditation. Sound meditation is difficult to achieve on your own as you need guidance on what to do and the sounds to listen to for the results you want (7). In a sound bath, you will find different instruments like singing bowls, gongs and other instruments that are used to create different sounds. During a sound bath, the participants usually lie down on their backs, and the session is usually facilitated by a sound therapist or a sound healing practitioner.
The benefits of attending a sound bath for your sound meditation is that they can offer the best environment, the meditation is guided, hence you don’t have to go guessing your own things and plus they have all the equipment that is needed. Sound baths also help people relax, expand our awareness and help us to access our inner selves (7).
The Bottom Line
Sound meditation can be helpful to anyone who wants to relax, anyone stressed or anyone who just needs to find a way to meditate. It is not limited to people of a certain age, and all people can do it. As we have seen, this particular type of relaxation used different sounds with the intent of changing one’s brainwaves.
Sound meditation is known to help people deal with stress, anxiety, depression and even pain. This practice has been used for a very long time, and so that should tell you something about it as people don’t bring back things that don’t work. It is important to note that this particular type of meditation should not be used to replace any anxiety medication or any other medications that you might be taking. Before you try this meditation, please consult an expert to make sure you just don’t jump into something you don’t know.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Effects of Singing Bowl Sound Meditation on Mood, Tension, and Well-being: An Observational Study (2016, journals.sagepub.com)
- Introducing Sound Meditation on Openfit (2020, openfit.com)
- I Tried a Sound Bath — Here’s What This Meditative Practice Is Really Like (2018, allure.com)
- The effect of low-frequency sound stimulation on patients with fibromyalgia: A clinical study (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The Harmonic Experience of Sound Meditation (n.d., kripalu.org)
- The Healing Power of Sound as Meditation (2019, psychologytoday.com)
- What Are Sound Baths? (2020, verywellmind.com)
- What is Sound Meditation & Why Is It So Trendy (n.d., doyou.com)