Committing to daily meditation can be tough, especially if you find it hard to relax — music can help. The emotional power of music is undeniable. But beyond its well known mood-altering abilities, music also offers a plethora of wellbeing benefits, particularly in relation to tackling stress.
“Sound can change our emotional state and evoke emotions. We can use music to manage our mindset and put us in our optimal state, whether that’s feeling peaceful, energized or creative,” says Tom Fortes Mayer, founder of FreeMind, an app that uses music to enhance meditation experiences.
And while music taste may be subjective, the way we experience it is universal. Take the example of a horror movie, watched without the score it is not nearly as tense or terrifying. Or, think about the large percentage of classic pop songs that use the same four chords to create a happy and uplifting melody (if you have not seen this viral video, it gives you a good idea of how formulaic it really is). Beyond emotion, on a physiological level, as humans we are a combination of molecules working at a certain frequency and sound can shift this. “Different parts of our body respond to different vibrations and certain frequencies within music create different states physiologically,” Fortes Mayer explains.
Your brain waves change, breath patterns deepen and you naturally fall into relaxation.
In the wellness space, sound healing is rapidly growing in popularity with the once-niche trend moving into the mainstream. “Sound is one of the most ancient forms of healing tools and it’s been used and explored by human beings for thousands of years,” says Josie Ross, a sound healer and electronic musician. “When you receive sound in this therapeutic way you can feel the vibrations working through you. This naturally guides you to listen to your body and take you away from the mind and into a state of simply being. Your brain waves change, breath patterns deepen and you naturally fall into relaxation.”
Ross offers sound healing on a one-to-one basis and via group sound baths (one-to-one sessions are $108) for one hour, but they can be done remotely over Skype for $95. Group sessions cost $50. Within these sessions, you lie down and get comfortable in a peaceful space and receive pure tones and frequencies from instruments like crystal bowls, gongs, tuning forks or the voice. It may sound a little woo woo, but having experienced it myself, I can vouch for its potency — you truly leave with a feeling of floating. The audible experience is akin to meditation and offers a zen-inducing experience for those who struggle with a more traditional practice. “Many people struggle to meditate, and sound provides an incredible tool to help people effortlessly drift away into a blissful and meditative state. People often explain how it is the only time they feel they can truly let go,” Ross adds.
Alongside healing sessions or sound baths, you can also reap the benefits at home. Ross recommends the Third Ear app, a catalogue of stress-busting sound baths that you can listen to from anywhere. “Set up a comfy space with a low light and a candle or incense and bathe in the sound,” Ross suggests. Or find an instrument you connect with and play this at home. “You don’t need to be musically inclined. It’s just about having time to yourself to enjoy whatever sounds you create.”
In a similar vein, Fortes Mayer’s FreeMind app uses music to take listeners into a meditative state using the latest research around brain entrainment. “Research suggests that certain frequencies within music can affect the brain. In particular, music frequencies in the alpha pattern can take the brain into an alpha state — one that is relaxed, present and mindful.”
As well as using an app to tap into a zen-like state, Fortes Mayer preaches the power of a playlist. He advocates creating a go-to playlist for stress on your phone and use it on the commute or before a testing work event or date. “Music is one of the only things we do that bring us into the present completely,” he says. “Set an intention for how you want to feel and ask the mind to use the music to get your there.”
And the answer to getting started lies with classical music. According to The Telegraph, music streaming service Deezer recently reported a 270 percent rise in streaming of its most popular classical playlist, with 43 percent of listeners under 35.
So, what are you waiting for? Start your own classical playlist with these songs and embrace music meditation:
“Spiegel im Spiegel” by Arvo Pärt
“February: The Arctic Circle” by Joby Talbot
“The Beyondness of Things” by John Barry
“Elegy for Dunkirk” by Dario Marianelli
“The Rescue” by Mark Isham
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