Mental Health

What is sound therapy? This relaxation technique is perfect for people who struggle with meditation

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Lauren Geall
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Are you struggling to relax during the coronavirus pandemic? Here’s why you should consider giving sound therapy a go.

The coronavirus pandemic has left even the calmest among us feeling rather frazzled – and it’s hardly surprising.

Whether we’re worrying about our friends and family members or struggling the overwhelming uncertainty of what comes after a second lockdown, the crisis has triggered a sharp rise in the number of people dealing with anxiety and other common mental health issues. In fact, according to data from the Office of National Statistics published in June, over a third of UK adults (37.4%) said the Covid-19 pandemic had affected their wellbeing in some way. 

Because of this, many of us have been looking for new tips, tricks and techniques to help us stay calm and look after our mental health, especially as winter approaches and we face more time stuck inside. And that’s where an approach called ‘sound therapy’ might come in handy. 

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A holistic approach to wellbeing which is designed to help lull you into a deep, meditative state, sound therapy is a practice which has roots in ancient cultures all over the world, from Australian Aboriginal tribes to Tibetan monks. In its simplest form, sound therapy sees practitioners use relaxing or stimulating sounds to provoke a calming response in the body.

Although it is not yet recommended as a psychological treatment on the NHS, studies have shown that sound therapy may have the potential to reduce anxiety, boost mood and even lower blood pressure. And it’s an approach which has risen in popularity over the last couple of years – on Instagram, the hashtag #soundtherapy boasts over 200,000 entries.

“The therapeutic sounds you hear in a sound bath (the term used to describe a sound therapy session because it ‘bathes’ you in sound) activate the parasympathetic nervous system,” explains Farzana Ali, a practitioner level sound therapist at The Sound Therapist. “This is your rest and digest system – the opposite of the more commonly known fight or flight response.”

“Then, through a process called auditory driving and sympathetic resonance – which basically means that your brainwaves change to match the frequency of the sounds – your brain moves into a restorative and dreamy alpha-dominant brainwave state. It’s in this state that rest and relaxation happens, blood pressure drops and creativity increases.”

While the most typical type of sound therapy involves you lying down and listening to an instrument played by a practitioner, other types of sound therapy include “vibroacoustic massage,” when Himalayan bowls or drums are played near the body so that you can feel the vibrations in your muscles.

Because sound therapy is a passive – rather than participatory – experience, it’s the perfect option for people who struggle to engage in traditional relaxation practices such as meditation or deep breathing, which often require you to ‘clear your mind’ or focus on something in particular. 

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And while the coronavirus pandemic has put a hold on more traditional, face-to-face sound baths, one of the great things about sound therapy is that, if you’re interested in giving it a go, it can still be accessed virtually.

“While various lockdowns and social distancing measures have made it harder to access a lot of the things that usually help us relax, the good thing about sound therapy is that it can still be accessed virtually,” Ali says. “You just need a good pair of headphones.”

Although sound therapy may not be a one-size-fits-all approach to managing anxiety, it’s straightforward nature and accessibility – especially during the coronavirus pandemic – makes it well worth a try.

For more information on sound therapy, to organise a bespoke session or access a range of free IGTV sound baths, you can find Farzana on Instagram @thesoundtherapist.

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Lauren Geall

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