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Lower Blood Pressure With Music
Feeling stressed? Depressed? Angry or frustrated? Just turn on some peaceful music, close your eyes, and soak in the sounds. Chances are you’ll soon feel calm and relaxed, and lower your blood pressure.
This is the thinking behind “healing music,” a New Age spin-off designed to help listeners relax, reduce stress, and heal. It all starts with your heart, says Mitchell Gaynor, M.D., an oncologist and clinical assistant professor of medicine at Cornell University’s Weill Medical College in New York. Gaynor uses healing music, which combines sounds, vocals, and music, to help his patients relax.
Hearing and feeling vibrations from soothing music, he says, helps the heart move into a regular rhythm that triggers other positive physical effects, including slower breathing, more relaxed brainwave patterns, decreased stress, and a boosted immune system.
“It’s possible to introduce sound into your life in a way that resets your heart and breathing so that they don’t promote stress and tension,” Gaynor says. “The music causes all your body systems to function in a more harmonious manner.”
Any peaceful music can work. But healing music—also known as therapeutic music—is specifically designed with certain pulses, rhythms, and sound frequencies that are thought to encourage the mind and body to unwind.
“Slow music will slow down the heartbeat, respiration, and brain waves,” says Jonathan Goldman, director of the Sound Healers Association in Boulder, Colorado. He adds that healing through sound is gaining mainstream acceptance. “More people are discovering the power of sound to relax, heal, and transform.”
Healing music is a broad category that may combine high-tech recording methods with ancient sounds along with mantras, chants, or the “singing” of a Tibetan quartz crystal bowl. Some tracks purport to include a beat resembling an alpha brain wave pulse—the type of brain activity that researchers have found in people who are in deeply calm states. Listening to these specially engineered tracks is thought to naturally synchronize our brain waves with this pulse, which should help us relax.
“They all have the same fundamental rhythms, tones, and core sounds,” Gaynor says of various types of healing music. “They all put your heart in these same regular rhythms.”
In his book The Healing Power of Sound, Gaynor cites evidence that he says demonstrates the heart-health benefits of listening to soothing music: its ability to help lower blood pressure and reduce anxiety, cardiac complications, and heart and respiratory rates.
He distinguishes between healing and curing, saying that while healing music doesn’t cure—solve a physical problem on a physical level—it heals, which encompasses the mind and spirit.