Music has the edge for relaxation

1005664_10201926012462105_1877361195_nVerbally led relaxation exercises are a good way to achieve a relaxed state of mind and a healthy state of body – which is why they are often used in situations such as antenatal classes. According to research in the German Medical Association’s journal Deutsches Ärzteblatt International, however, music therapy has been found to be even more effective in improving the health of palliative care patients. Medical Daily cites that music of all sorts was reported by patients as boosting levels of relaxation and well-being. The self-reports were corroborated by researchers using physiological measurements in a double-blind trial.

Do miserable Androids dream of segmented sleep?

Proponents of hainvg two sleeps a night with a period of wakefulness between, say it’s a great way of getting things done – everything from writing a bestseller, to learning a language, making babies or getting closer to your God.

One of the problems of this segmented sleep approach, though, is that you have to go to bed earlier and will probably end up rising later. There may not be enough hours in the day (or night). If you end up cutting your total sleep-time you’ll not only build up sleep-debt, but you’ll also end up interrupting what sleep you do get, and that leads to all sorts of problems, chief among which according to new research is the dampening of feelings of positive emotions.

Meditation, music & grey matter

Everyone likes to think they have plenty of grey matter, as it correlates with heightened abilities in many skills, and it seems that being a practising musician or meditator will build that stuff in your brain. Science.Mic cites Massachusetts General Hospital research which suggests that while nothing is a universal panacea “Meditation is like a super-vitamin for your brain. It targets and boosts the parts that are already strong, and improves their functionality to make them even stronger.” As an added bonus “when people began meditating, their amygdala got smaller. That is the area of the brain most closely associated with fear and aggression”

Relax, cut stress and ease IBS

The Nursing Times cites a study from the US, claiming that intensive care nurses who are taught on-the-spot relaxation techniques can cut their stress levels by up to 40%.

The study investigated techniques such as: mindfulness, gentle stretching, yoga, meditation and music. The Relaxation Response breathing pattern is another tested way of achieving near-instant relaxation. It too has been in the news recently – a Massachusetts General Hospital research report  said that eliciting the Relaxation Response has “a significant impact on clinical symptoms of the gastrointestinal disorders irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease and on the expression of genes related to inflammation and the body’s response to stress.”

Binaural on the go

Intel is in the process of making smartphone chips that are binaural audio friendly. The Inquirer  reported: “We tested the technology in the form of some earphones that look like they had been worn by a million other people. Nevertheless, it revealed how a video comprising different actions, such as a hand clap, can manipulate your brain to think the sound is coming from the room you are in through this realistic Binaural audio technology.”

Could be useful for making binaural beat technology even more effective at altering brainwave frequencies. At the very least, it should make for more immersive soundscapes on the go, whether that’s for pure pleasure or as background for meditation.

Closing your eyes and creative relaxation

I often use binaural beat technology in my audio recordings to help people experience relaxation more deeply and easily.

Binaural sound, creating 3D landscapes in a listener’s inner ear, is something that crops up in the news every now and then. The BBC did some broadcast experiments back in 2013, and now it’s getting some more attention in the fields of advertising and entertainment.

Binaural sound is this year incorporated into virtual reality headsets used by South Africa Tourism UK to foster an immersive experience  of heightened suggestivity, that is not a million miles away from standard hypnosis work that involves creating inner alternative realities for therapeutic purposes. Instead of selling a patient a new and healthier vision of themselves, the VR headset sells five-minute taster sessions of holiday packages, including diving with sharks and abseiling down Table Mountain as well as a less-adrenalin intense experiencing of street food, music and wine.

The ability of sound to induce vivid inner realities is also relevant to the theatre. The Stage  reports on the use of audio technology by director David Rosenberg, and sound designers Ben & Max Ringham. In an interview, the trio discuss how they’ve used sound to create immersive realities for audiences over the years and how much more effective the technique is when used in darkness.

This makes sense from a hypnosis and relaxation perspective – eyes-closed relaxation enables more attention to be paid to aural inputs such as music, sound effects and the spoken word, while also enabling the creation of inner landscapes with their own visual, auditory and kinaesthetic dimensions.

Relaxing in the bath

The artist Joe Fletcher Orr recently told Culture 24 that the bath is where he finds most of his ideas. Instead of a traditional studio, he’s planning on getting a membership at a luxury spa so he can spend time in a relaxation pool.

He’s not alone in the regard with which he holds the humble bath. Famously, Douglas Adams found it a perfect relaxing antidote to deadlines which allowed his ideas to mature unconsciously during bouts of procrastination.

Less famously, I, and others, find the bath an ideal place to perform mindfulness meditation.

Hot water, locked door, maybe some lavender essential oil, maybe some relaxing music in the background. Sounds an ideal recipe for beneficial altered states of mind.

Instant relaxation

Recently, there’s been press  coverage of a wearable gizmo called Thync, that provides its wearer with electric shocks to the head. It’s reported to cause instant relaxation.

I’ve no experience of using the device, but see no reason why it shouldn’t be effective. Shifting states of mind is something that we can all do, very quickly either unconsciously (you don’t need to be told to start pumping adrenalin when you’re threatened, for example) or consciously, such as when relaxing or meditating.

Nearly all of my clients have seen how they can quickly relax in a minute or so, just by adjusting their breathing so that they’re breathing out for longer than they’re breathing in. For those who don’t like the idea of counting breaths, I’ve used different breathing rhythms as the basis for a few music tracks – just listen and let your breathing match the rise and fall of the music.

Breath Of Calm
Relaxation Response
Breathe Easy

Rewiring the brain with meditation

An Australian psychologist David Roland , has written a book about his recovery from stroke – How I Rescued My Brain. In the book he describes how he effectively rewired his brain to be arguably better than it was before the medical trauma.

He used brain-training programs to regain basic auditory skills.  And he practised mindfulness meditation: “The evidence is pretty clear,” he told the Express, “even in an eight-week programme, that it changes your brain structure long-term.”

He also ensured that he exercised, enjoyed good sleep routines, ate well and listened to music. “Listening to music is a little bit of magic for the brain, as countless studies have proved,” the Express reported. “Scientists believe it’s because music activates lots of brain regions at once – attention, memory, verbal, emotion and meaning. One study in Finland among stroke patients who listened to music every day for two months found they had better verbal memory and focused attention after the trial.”

Roland’s tale is inspirational and the methods he used are available to all. Meditation and relaxation are much more than enjoyable states of mind and body, they’re drivers of beneficial effects throughout out entire biology.