The human animal and sound

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Have you ever reacted to sounds around you in ways that you don’t understand? It might be trains passing through a station, or perhaps household appliances, a helicopter overhead, or lorries passing by. Has sound ever made you feel oddly anxious and you don’t know why?

What about sounds that make you feel good? Do you listen to sounds of nature to bring stress relief, meditate with music, listen to music or play a musical instrument to improve your mood, or perhaps go to gigs and concerts?

Since I completed the Safe and Sound Protocol, SSP, training last year I have been fascinated by our relationship with sound. I’ve been researching the different ways that my clients can maintain the state of calm that the scientifically developed, therapeutic, SSP filtered music programme evokes.

Run for your life or play dead

Our primitive auditory survival mechanism hasn’t evolved from the times of dwelling in a cave. Just like our ancestors we are subconsciously scanning our environment for sounds of threats, cues of safety, all of which were key to our survival.

We all know the feeling of being startled and hearing certain sounds that immediately draw our attention, no matter what we are doing, this is that amazing auditory system at work.

Unlike primitive man, our perceived life threats or stressors can be constant in our fast paced and stress fuelled world.  Quite remarkably, our body’s response to this demand for heightened vigilance, is to slacken the tiny middle ear muscles in order to better detect low and high frequency sounds associated with danger. This in the past would have led to higher survival rates. In simple terms these frequencies are the sounds of danger, like a predator’s growl or the human scream. No other sounds have more importance when a life threat is imminent.

No time to rest and digest

Unlike our ancestors, who had generally short-lived encounters with threats, where they would simply escape the predator and live to see another day or die. We encounter traumatic events, stress, worry and fear on a regular basis and this system of survival can become permanently switched on. This means slackened middle ear muscles, tuned to low and high frequencies, unable to return to the toned flexed state of calm, rest and digest.

It is these flabby, untoned middle ear muscles that are challenged and conditioned back to flex, and a calmer state during the process of passively listening to the filtered therapeutic music programme of the SSP.

It’s hardly surprising that if we are stuck in this survival mode, feeling varying degrees of fight, flight or freeze, we are unable to maintain healthy emotional regulation. This leaves us with little interest in anything beyond survival, taking our focus away from our relationships, creativity, productivity and that deeper sense of connecting with each other.

Fusion Spaces is now actively exploring all the ways sound can be used to support human wellbeing. The research is taking us in some fascinating and surprising directions.

Join us for a sound bath – no soap required

I’ve written previously about six simple ways to reduce stress and the importance of increasing something called heart rate variability (HRV). It’s this, our HRV, that appears to be the key to increased health and wellbeing and a calmed autonomic nervous system.

Studies in using music as medicine make for interesting reading and thanks to Rob Stephenson’s post on LinkedIn, we’ve been fortunate to hear about his experience with a sound bath. We attended our first 30-minute sound bath session with Selma, the founder of Gong. This experience with sound was the deepest we’d felt, with an eventual almost floating, meditative state and the resonance of the sound still present in our bodies throughout the day and into the early evening.

So, if you are looking for deep relaxation and increased HRV, this is certainly something to explore. We will be adding this to our list of practices and experiences to include in the maintenance of the SSP programme.

We hope that reading this might just spark an increased interest in the wonder of sound and our human connection to it. Perhaps you’ll pick up an instrument, learn to play a gong, sing or listen to some music. And if you missed our LinkedIn post recently, do make the time for Stewart Copeland’s Adventures in Music, it’s time really well spent.

Finally, you might also like to explore what our friends and Fusionaries at Moodsonic are doing. Discover how we can help you to use the power of sound in your workplace to increase human comfort and wellbeing.

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Jayne Cox

I am a wellbeing consultant for Fusion Spaces, which works alongside my private practice of Life Coaching and Stress Management Consultations. I’m passionate about helping people to thrive at work.

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