What Are Sound Baths and How do they Help Relieve Stress?

There are many ways we can help improve our mental health, but in the spirit of World Mental Health Day, we’re shedding light on the ways audio and the entertainment industry help improve and support mental health every day. Join us as we share insights from faculty on the science behind this, and the ways they find peace through the power of sound and film. 

During what most would consider one of the most stressful periods of time we’ve experienced as a society, many people have sought out methods of managing and alleviating stress and anxiety. One of these methods has roots in ancient practices but is often unknown in modern society—the sound bath. 

What is a sound bath? 

Sound baths can vary in execution, but typically include sitting or lying in a relaxing position, while someone with experience in sound bath musical techniques uses various instruments to make vibrational sounds designed to have a soothing effect.  

Some of the instruments used to create a sound bath include crystal bowls, Tibetan singing bowls, bells, gongs, and more. 

Sound baths are different from music therapy, as it’s more often related to guided meditation and yoga, rather than instruction from a trained music therapist. Here is a link to a video with an example of a sound bath. 

How does it work? 

The science of sound baths boils down to how our bodies respond to frequencies. People often describe how the human body exists as almost like its own instrument. That each function of the body creates vibrations of varying lengths. Those vibrations impact so much of how we experience the world. Modern experiences can impact these frequencies—screens, speakers, headphones, noise pollution and more. The act of a sound bath can “re-calibrate” how the body exists among all of these disruptions, making you feel more relaxed and calm. Many people note that they can physically “feel” the sound as they listen. 

But not all sounds are created equally. The music you typically listen to has beats and rhythm that help you anticipate what comes next. The sounds and frequencies used aren’t typically designed based on specific frequencies. This process often stimulates the sympathetic nervous system. However, sound baths create a more androgynous sound which helps turn off the sympathetic nervous system and shift people into the parasympathetic nervous system—how our bodies naturally repair and heal. 

What are the health benefits of sound baths? 

Of course, sound baths alone aren’t intended to treat any serious health conditions, but they have been proven to contribute mental health benefits. Researchers have found that tension, anxiety, and negative moods decreased significantly after sound bath therapy. It’s been proven to improve mood and reduce tension in the body. While the benefits are likely stronger with an in-person session, a 2018 study showed that even listening through headphones made an improvement in heart rate and other vitals that indicate anxiety. 

Understanding how strong ties from stress are to conditions like heart disease and diabetes, stress-reducing activities like sound baths might even help support overall health, too.  

How do you experience a sound bath? 

Does all this talk of de-stressing make you want to experience a sound bath for yourself? We don’t blame you. There are lots of ways to experience sound healing wherever you are. If you’re looking to experience it in person, search your area for practitioners of sound baths. If you’re hoping to try it out virtually, search for sound baths on YouTube, or even via apps like Spotify and Audible. Sound baths are an accessible way to help us all shed some of the stress and anxiety that often surrounds us in a busy world. And as a school dedicated to audio education, we can’t think of a method we’d be more interested in using. Try it for yourself and let us know what you think!