Enhance Relaxation and Reduce Stress with a Brief Sound Meditation
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Sound meditation is the use of therapeutic instruments played in an intuitive way. It’s an extremely effective and powerful tool for physical and energetic healing/self care. You don’t just hear the vibrations but you FEEL them within your body.” – Babeskills
Meditation training has been shown to improve health and well-being. It has also been found to be effective for a large array of medical and psychiatric conditions, either stand-alone or in combination with more traditional therapies. As a result, meditation training has been called the third wave of therapies. One problem with understanding meditation effects is that there are, a wide variety of meditation techniques and it is not known which work best for improving different conditions.
There are a number of different types of meditation. Many can be characterized on a continuum with the degree and type of attentional focus. In focused attention meditation, the individual practices paying attention to a single meditation object, learns to filter out distracting stimuli, including thoughts, and learns to stay focused on the present moment, filtering out thoughts centered around the past or future. There are a variety of objects of focused meditation, the most common of which is focusing on the breath. But focusing on sounds can also be very effective.
In today’s Research News article “Didgeridoo Sound Meditation for Stress Reduction and Mood Enhancement in Undergraduates: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6769210/), Philips and colleagues recruited meditation naïve college students and randomly assigned them to a single 30 minute meditation session focusing on either sound or the breath. The sound meditation occurred to music played on a Didgeridoo. They were measured before and after the session for mood and perceived stress.
They found that after the meditation both groups had significant increases in relaxation and energy and decreases in negative arousal, tiredness, and perceived stress. But the sound meditation group had significantly greater increases in relaxation and decreases in perceived stress than the breath meditation group. The students reported enjoying the meditation but the sound meditation group reported significantly greater enjoyment than the breath meditation group.
The results of the study suggest that a single brief meditation session can improve mood and reduce perceived stress but that meditating to music played on a Didgeridoo produced greater relaxation and greater reductions in perceived stress that a more traditional meditation focused on the breath. It appears that the Didgeridoo music made for a more enjoyable meditation. It is possible that the effects observed were due to making meditation more enjoyable rather than a superiority of sound meditation. Future research needs to explore whether these effects occur to different sounds varying in enjoyability and are maintained with a greater number of meditation sessions.
So, enhance relaxation and reduce stress with a brief sound meditation.
“Sound enhances our self-awareness, it facilitates connecting with the higher self, it promotes self-observation and self-worth, and it increases the state of personal resonance. It brings awareness to the inner processes of the mind: the habitual patterns, the good and bad discursive thinking, the judgment, the filters through which we experience the inner and the outer worlds and realities.” – SoundMeditation.com
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Philips, K. H., Brintz, C. E., Moss, K., & Gaylord, S. A. (2019). Didgeridoo Sound Meditation for Stress Reduction and Mood Enhancement in Undergraduates: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Global advances in health and medicine, 8, 2164956119879367. doi:10.1177/2164956119879367
College students report feeling frequently stressed, which adversely impacts health. Meditation is one effective method for reducing stress, but program length and required effort are potential obstacles. Research on sound meditation, involving focused listening to sounds, is nascent but may appeal to undergraduates. The effects of listening to didgeridoo, an Australian wind instrument producing a low, resonant, droning sound, have not been studied.
This study compared the effect of a 30-minute didgeridoo sound meditation versus silent meditation with focus on one’s breath on acute self-perceived stress and mood in undergraduates without prior meditation experience.
Seventy-four undergraduates were randomized to 2 interventions: (1) didgeridoo meditation (n = 40) performed live by a musician or (2) silent meditation (n = 34) taught by a meditation instructor. Immediate pre–post effects of the session were examined using the 4-Dimension Mood Scale and an item assessing acute self-perceived stress. Intervention acceptability was assessed postintervention.
Two-way mixed analyses of variance were performed. Both groups reported significantly increased relaxation after meditation (Group D, P = .0001 and Group S, P = .0005). Both groups reported decreased negative arousal (Group D, P = .02 and Group S, P = .02), energy (Group D, P = .0001 and Group S, P = .003), tiredness (Group D, P = .0001 and Group S, P = .005), and acute stress (Group D, P = .0001 and Group S, P = .0007). Group Didgeridoo experienced significantly more relaxation (P = .01) and less acute stress (P = .03) than Group Silent. Fifty-three percent of silent participants and 80% of didgeridoo participants agreed that they would attend that type of meditation again. Forty-seven percent of silent participants and 80% of didgeridoo participants enjoyed the meditation.
Didgeridoo sound meditation is as effective as silent meditation for decreasing self-perceived negative arousal, tiredness, and energy and more effective than silent meditation for relaxation and acute stress in undergraduates. Didgeridoo meditation participants reported higher levels of enjoyment and higher likelihood of attending another session. Further investigation into didgeridoo and sound meditation is warranted.