What is the soundscape of your life? Honking and beeping as you walk down the city street? That collection of songs that helps get you through mile after mile on your runs? The sound of a long-distance friend or family member’s voice on the phone? That podcast you can’t get enough of?
The soundscape in your life can be a powerful influence on your mood and wellbeing. In this spirit, more and more people are gravitating towards “sound baths”, sessions where you are immersed in sound in the hopes of having some sort of positive psychological or other benefit.
Many of us are painfully aware of the environmental pollution around us in the air and water, so we seek the fresher feeling air in the woods or choose to swim in a lake far from a city rather than jump into the Hudson. However, it’s worth taking a minute to think about a different type of pollution--”noise pollution”. The EPA defines noise pollution as “unwanted or disturbing sound” and researchers have found links between environmental noise and our cognitive performance.
The increasingly popular sound baths, often done using tuning forks, crystal or Tibetan singing bowls, or gongs, may be a way to combat noise pollution and replace it with something that feels more soothing.
Though definitive research on the impact of sound baths on health is scarce, their popularity highlights people’s beliefs in the power of sound as a potentially centering and calming tool in meditation. In fact, sound baths may also be even more powerful when it comes to newcomers to meditation. One study found that participants who were not aware of the impact of sound meditation enjoyed larger decreases in tension than their peers when a Tibetan singing bowl was played for them.
Finding it hard to calm your mind during meditation? Might be worth incorporating sound into your practice--to tune in so you can tune out.