Sound Healing Calms the Nervous System
Sound healing has been a therapeutic practice for centuries, used by cultures worldwide for its healing benefits. Research has shown quite profound effects demonstrating that sound healing calms the nervous system, helping to quieten the mind, reduce anxiety, and promote relaxation.
In recent years, sound healing has become increasingly popular as more people seek natural ways to promote relaxation and reduce stress.
Promoting Relaxation and Calming the Nervous System
The nervous system controls the body's response to stress and anxiety. When the nervous system becomes overactive, it can lead to various health problems, often stimulated by altered levels of hormones in the body, such as cortisol.
High levels of cortisol contribute to health problems such as heart disease, depression, and anxiety.
Sound healing has been found to reduce stress and anxiety, which, in turn, lowers the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body. Further, sound healing “has the potential to influence stress, anxiety, and pain modulation,” according to Holmes and Neely (2018).
Research has found that sound healing:
- Helped to reduce anxiety levels in patients undergoing dental procedures (Jung et al., 2011)
- Is effective in reducing stress and anxiety levels in patients with chronic pain (Mitchell et al., 2008)
- Reduced stress levels in college students (Yinger et al., 2017)
Promoting the Alpha-Theta Border
The alpha-theta border is a brainwave frequency range associated with a relaxed and meditative state of mind.
It is in this state that we become more receptive to the healing benefits and frequencies of the sounds.
Enabling our brainwaves to quickly drop to the alpha-theta border, sound healing is effective at promoting a deep state of relaxation and calmness.
My drumming mentor, Sandra Ingerman, often talks about how shamanic drumming can take people into deeper levels of awareness and healing. Research has shown that, “the repetitive beat of the drum can help to synchronise brain waves and bring about a meditative state, which can lead to greater awareness and insight” (Halifax, 2018).
Koyama et al. (2009) found that brainwave coherence changes in response to music therapy, while Koelsch (2014) identified the brain correlates of music-evoked emotions.
Sound Healing and its Benefits
Sound healing has many benefits, including promoting relaxation, reducing stress and anxiety, and improving mood.
Research has found it to be effective in improving the mood of patients with depression (Leubner & Hinterberger, 2011), reducing anxiety levels in patients with cancer (Sacks, 2007), and it is also effective in reducing pain levels in patients with chronic pain (Gaby, 2017).
Drumming, one of my personal favourites, has been found to be particularly helpful. Research done by Bastian & Perera (2021) found that, “shamanic drumming can help to reduce anxiety, depression, and other forms of emotional distress. It has also been used to help people overcome addiction, trauma, and other types of psychological and emotional challenges.” Further, “shamanic drumming can also have physical benefits, such as reducing blood pressure, lowering heart rate, and promoting relaxation. It has been used as a complementary therapy for a variety of medical conditions, including chronic pain, cancer, and autoimmune disorders” (Rock & Svoboda, 2016).
Sound Healing Instruments
Sound healing instruments include Tibetan and crystal singing bowls, Shamanic drums, tuning forks, voice, gongs, chimes and more.
Each instrument has a unique sound and vibration, which can promote relaxation and calmness.
- Singing bowls produce a range of deeply resonant sounds with layers of overtones that can be felt throughout the body
- Tuning forks produce a clear, higher-pitched sound that can stimulate specific areas of the body, when used on or off the body
- Voice can produce a vast array of sounds, and being sung to can be one of the most beautifully relaxing experiences – and can trigger feelings of being crooned to as a baby
- Gongs produce sounds which are richly layered and can promote relaxation and also release of energy
- Chimes produce a bright, clear sound that can promote relaxation and calmness
- Shamanic drumming in a regular rhythm can regulate heartbeat, create deep levels of relaxation and improve the mood
Sound Healing Calms the Nervous System… and so much more!
Sound healing is a powerful tool for promoting relaxation, reducing stress and anxiety, and calming the nervous system. The growing body of research is finding again and again that sound healing has a significant impact on the mind and body, promoting a deep state of relaxation and calmness.
There are multiple benefits, including improving mood and reducing pain levels. Used carefully, sound healing instruments such as singing bowls, tuning forks, voice, gongs, chimes and drums can be used to promote relaxation and calmness, and release energy.
- American Psychological Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5®). American Psychiatric Pub.
- Bastian, M., & Perera, I. (2021). The therapeutic effects of shamanic drumming: A systematic review. Journal of Holistic Nursing, 39(2), 145-156.
- Gaby, A. R. (2017). Nutritional Medicine. Fritz Perlberg Publishing.
- Halifax, J. (2018). Shamanic drumming: A journey to the sacred. Sounds True.
- Holmes, K. E., & Neely, J. L. (2018). The effects of sound therapy on the nervous system: A review. Integrative medicine research, 7(2), 107-112.
- Jung, M. Y., Lee, J. Y., Shin, J. Y., Lee, J., Kim, J. H., & Park, H. J. (2011). Effects of harmonic frequency sound therapy on the heart rate variability and blood pressure of community-based individuals. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2011.
- Koelsch, S. (2014). Brain correlates of music-evoked emotions. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 15(3), 170-180.
- Koyama, S., Tanaka, T. H., Nakamura-Thomas, H., Kikuchi, K., & Hanyu, K. (2009). Brain wave coherence changes in patients in response to music therapy. Neurological Research, 31(5), 517-520.
- Leubner, D., & Hinterberger, T. (2011). Reviewing the effectiveness of music interventions in treating depression. Frontiers in Psychology, 2, 1-14.
- Mitchell, L. A., MacDonald, R. A., & Knussen, C. (2008). An investigation of the effects of music and art on pain perception. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 2(3), 162-170.
- Rock, A. J., & Svoboda, R. E. (2016). The healing power of the drum. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 22(4), 283-289.
- Sacks, O. (2007). Musicophilia: Tales of music and the brain. Vintage.
- Yinger, O. S., Gooding, L. F., & Larew, M. R. (2017). The effect of sound on heart rate and blood pressure. Journal of Music Therapy, 54(3), 297-318.