In today’s highly visual world, it may be easy to overlook the profound impact that our auditory environment has on our well-being. Just as we are conscious of the food we consume, it’s essential to be aware of our ‘auditory diet’ – the sounds and music we expose ourselves to daily. For those navigating through challenging times, understanding and intentionally curating this diet may be surprisingly helpful.
Music has an unparalleled power to evoke emotions. It can transport us to another time, remind us of a cherished memory, or even change our mood in an instant.
However, during heightened and challenging moments even the smallest of sound bites can become more sensitive. As with our other senses, sound is processed in a part of our brains that also processes our emotions. Sounds can spark emotionally potent memories, both good and bad. The sounds of rain can stir up memories of a pleasurable day spent at home for one, while the sound of thunder may result in memories affiliated with combat experience for others.
The sound of a particular artist can bring a sense of comfort due to an associated memory of a parent or loved one who also connected to that song. However, for another, that same artist may agitate their emotions and make them cringe, as that particular sound bite represents a time in their life that was full of pain and lack of safety.
Crafting Your Auditory Diet
As we delve deeper into the importance of our auditory diet, it’s essential to ask: what do you want music to help you accomplish? A well-curated auditory diet can:
- Help you handle adverse situations.
- Serve as a preventative tool.
- Improve your overall quality of life.
Like any healthy diet, variety is key. It involves some trial and error, but it’s about finding the right combination of sounds, silence, and music that works best for you. Think of it as a plate of music, where different moods (happy, sad, dark, etc.) are the colours that add vitality and longevity to your auditory experience.
Researchers at UCLA noted that laughter is recognized worldwide as a sound indicating joy. Conversely, certain sounds are globally associated with emotions like fear, anger, disgust, sadness, and surprise.
Also, our society tends to be more visual than auditory, often paying more attention to what we see than what we hear. But the beauty of an auditory diet is that it’s about adding good things over time. Sometimes, we might experience ‘music fatigue’, where we grow tired of our usual tunes. In such cases, it’s not about taking a break from music but changing how we engage with it.
Evidently, curating this auditory diet isn’t always straightforward and you may want to embark on hiring a music therapist or another mental health professional to help you find exactly what you need.
Beyond Music: The Sounds That Shape Us
While music is a significant component of our auditory diet, it’s crucial not to neglect non-musical sounds that bring joy and comfort. For instance, the laughter of children, the rustling of leaves, or the gentle hum of a city can be as therapeutic as a favourite song. These sounds can be especially healing for those feeling isolated or overwhelmed but we all respond differently.
For children, especially those who have faced trauma, sensory overload must be considered. Their developing brains are still learning to process sensory information, making them more susceptible to intense stimuli. Music therapists recognize this and employ strategies like personalized soundscapes, breathing and vocalization techniques, interactive music activities, and collaborative playlist creation to help children and their families navigate sensory overload.
What is the Harmonious Path Forward?
As we continue to uncover the profound impact of music on our well-being, it’s essential to remember its day-to-day significance. Intentional listening to the world around us and putting in time for purposeful playlist creation can make a significant contribution to our daily lives, helping us navigate through some of the challenges.
Every note, every sound, and every silence plays a pivotal role in shaping our emotional and psychological landscape. As we’ve explored, our auditory diet is not just about the music we listen to, but also the ambient sounds that envelop us, the laughter we share, and even the silences we cherish. In a world that often feels overwhelming, curating this auditory experience becomes not just a choice, but a necessity for our well-being.
As we journey forward, let’s remember that the sounds we choose to surround ourselves with can be a balm for our souls, a catalyst for healing, and a compass guiding us toward betterment. Let us not merely hear, but truly listen, for in the depths of all the sound bites lies our shared humanity.