These days it is widely accepted that ‘wellbeing’ is just as important as ‘health’, but what does it mean to be mentally ‘well’, how do we know when something isn’t right and what can we do about it? Lyz Cooper, founder of The British Academy of Sound Therapy (BAST) talks about her experience and shares her research on how to use sound and music to not only improve health and wellbeing, but to help prevent illness in the first place.
‘I speak from experience’, said Lyz over a latte and a room full of Himalayan singing bowls and gongs when I caught up with her at a recent course. ‘In the early 90’s I was diagnosed with chronic anxiety disorder and clinical depression. I literally couldn’t go out of the house and really struggled to hold life together – in fact there were times when I felt completely overwhelmed and terrified without really knowing why.’
‘One day I was in the bath and started toning (a technique where you sing a prolonged tone – a bit like an ‘OM’, but it can be any vowel sound). After a few minutes I felt so much better. I tried this again any time I felt anxious and it definitely made a big difference. It was such a profound affect that I had to find out more’. Fast-forward to today and Lyz is one of the thought-leaders in the therapeutic sound field and is at the forefront of research and development into finding out how and why sound and music can be so effective.
Tips on how to use sound to improve mental health
First of all breathe
Make sure your exhale is longer than your inhale, this will help to switch off your sympathetic ‘fight or flight’ nervous system and switch on the parasympathetic ‘rest/digest’ nervous system. Bring your breath to your belly. Often we breathe from the upper chest when we are stressed. Be aware of when your breathing changes as this can be a sign before you’ve even realised you are stressed.
Use A Relaxation Playlist
Having a playlist ready for those stressful times, or even just to maintain your calm can be a huge help. Lyz writes Consciously Designed Music which is available for free on Spotify or to buy on iTunes for a small fee. She has even put together a playlist for deep relaxation.
Getting plenty of sleep is good not just for physical health, but mental health too. The recommended amount is at least 8 hours. Some of Lyz’s tracks are written to help you get off to the land of nod quicker and she has put together a sleep playlist.
Attend a Soundbath
Sound therapy sessions induce Altered States of Consciousness which improve health and wellbeing. Research undertaken by Lyz Cooper shows the health benefits of altering consciousness with therapeutic sound and you can read more about this on our research pages. If you don’t have time to attend a physical session, try listening into a Soundbath track at home.
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