Music for wellbeing:
The healing power of sound
Music has always been a powerful force in our lives. It can evoke memories, inspire emotions, and even change our physical and mental states.
As a lifelong music enthusiast, I have experienced the healing power of sound firsthand and I want to share my journey and the latest research on how music can positively impact our wellbeing.
I began my musical journey as a radio host in the early 90’s, playing early Ambient and Trance music late into the night. Later on, I took my love for music to the clubs and played a variety of genres such as Techno, Minimal, and Deep House.
With the rise of streaming platforms like iTunes and Spotify, I’ve continued to create playlists for various moods and activities. During my time running Pause Fest, I curated a specific soundtrack for each year to enhance the festival experience, usually 8-10 hours long and played during breaks at the event. They can still be accessed on Spotify.
However, when Pause Fest collapsed in 2021, I found myself struggling with feelings of loss and darkness. It was then that I turned to music as a source of refuge and positive emotional connection. I wasn’t alone in this experience; many people turn to music in times of stress, anxiety, and depression.
Recent research has shown that music can have a significant impact on our physical and mental wellbeing. A review published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Network Open, analysed 26 studies from several countries and concluded that music provides a clinically significant boost to mental health, which can be comparable to the benefits of exercise.
There is no other stimulus on earth that simultaneously engages our brains as widely as music does.Brian Harris, certified neurologic music therapist at Harvard-affiliated Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital
Music can also boost exercise ability, ease stress and anxiety, and enhance recovery from strokes. According to Brian Harris, a certified neurologic music therapist at Harvard-affiliated Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, “There is no other stimulus on earth that simultaneously engages our brains as widely as music does.” Listening to music can also trigger the release of dopamine, a brain chemical that makes people feel engaged and motivated.
There is a lot more to music than just pleasure. Music can alter your brain chemistry, enable you to exercise longer, improve blood vessel function, help heart rate and blood pressure return to normal, ease anxiety and help recover from heart surgery are some of the benefits published by Harvard Medical School.
I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing the healing properties of music a few times, first in Thailand retreat at the ‘Sound Bath’, and more recently a ‘Sound Healing’ experiment led by my friend Finbar O’Hanlon. I’ve booked Finbar to deliver the first ‘Sound Healing’ as the workshop at Pause Fest 2019, but I missed it, so I’ve jumped at the second opportunity.
Finbar engineered the base sound frequency at 90Hz on his computer, which helps with relaxation, meditation, and sleep. On top of that he played live crystal bowls and a few other soothing sounds. I fell asleep for half of the session and felt so relaxed after it. He has since patented these sounds with his co-founder Ahmet Zappa, and I look forward to seeing what they come up with next.
There are many playlists for wellness, relaxation, sleep, and meditation available online. I’ve also curated a few of my own on Spotify, including ‘Funk it’, ‘Vibing’ and ‘Big Chill’ as well as a specially curated ‘90’s Dance’ playlist for cardio workouts.
The healing properties of vibrations are definitely something that can uplift your mood and make your everyday brighter. In a yearly wrap Spotify described me as ‘Adventurer – the seeker of sound’.
I encourage you to explore the healing properties of music and find playlists that enhance your mood, focus, productivity or sleep. If you already have good ones, please send it to us so we can share it with everyone.
If not, these four lists below are a good place to start.
Hot Tip: How to train your Spotify algorithm?
If you listen to a new Spotify playlist for a week it will start sending you alike songs, if you listen longer it will send you the entire recommendation in that genre.