Updated: Mar 7, 2022
We are bombarded daily with too much noise and overstimulated to the point of saturation. Some of us fall asleep watching television and are listening all night to whatever happens to come on. We wake up to some kind of alarm, jarring us back to this reality. We turn on another television to watch the morning news. We get in the car and turn on the radio. We hear car horns, sirens, loud music, kids screaming, phones ringing, the radio on the way to work. When something is too loud, many of us instinctively speak louder. We’ve become saturated by sound. By remaining unconscious of the sounds around us, we are creating confusion and chaos. Why is this important? As discussed before, sound is vibration and vibration is energy. The energy to which we consistently expose ourselves and those we love has a significant impact on how we move about in the world and how much we are able to accomplish during our time here.
According to sound expert Julian Treasure, sound affects us on multiple levels: 1. Physiologically—Sound energy changes our physiology. Changing the tempo of our music can increase or decrease our heart and breathing rates. I often use soft, calming music to soothe my anxious patients. I can usually help patients decrease their blood pressure significantly in the office just by helping them to relax in this way. Playing a loud harsh sound such as that of a jackhammer or a drill will instantly trigger the release of cortisol, a stress hormone. Increasing levels of cortisol will activate our fight or flight response which can even alter important rhythms such as sleep and digestion.
2. Psychologically—Music is actually the most powerful sound we have as humans. It affects us on the most basic levels. Think of how sound is used in television and movies to evoke emotion—the sappy music at the end of your favorite 90’s family sitcom or that dissonant staccato in the scary movie that makes you want to yell, “don’t open the door!”. Even the quality or timbre of someone’s voice can soothe or stress us, framing how we see certain life situations.
3. Cognitively—The right type of music, played at a certain frequency can be used to stimulate your mind, help you think more clearly, and help improve your memory. There are 5 distinct types of brain waves, and you can learn to alter your mental state by entraining your brainwaves to your desired frequency. This is a fascinating topic, and a bit beyond this week’s discussion.
4. Behaviorally—We give a great amount of conscious attention to the other senses. We speak about flavor profiles (taste), fragrance wheels (smell), tactile environments (touch), landscaping and feng shui (sight). How often have you heard the term “soundscape”? A soundscape is basically the sound environment in which we are immersed at any given time. We all agree that creating a pleasant sensory environment can alter your shopping behavior. Retailers are masters at this. In addition, carefully chosen soundscapes at work are known to increase productivity, and some cities have experimented with soundscapes to decrease crime rates.
Conscious awareness is the first step in making any change. In Complete Control, I give you some suggestions about how to change your internal environment when you can’t change what’s going on around you. But, often you can change something. Whether you are a little wound up, or need some more “pep in your step”, need to improve your mood or create a calming environment after a stressful meeting or argument ask yourself, “how can I change my sound environment?” Throughout the week, just notice how sound is affecting you. With intention, you can change your environment. By changing your environment you can change your physiology, your emotions, your thoughts and your behavior. See you next week!