Posted on Health Tips

Sound health.

Health is all about diet. When advising our patients about the food they ingest, we tell people that what you eat is very important, and not only that, how and when you eat is important as well.  The same holds true for the types of music, and other sounds, to which we expose our physiology.

Sound has a profound impact on us, body, mind, and spirit. Sound impacts the physiology because cells vibrate in a dynamic way, and the music we listen to can impact this vibratory activity.  At the same time, cells may transmit information thru these vibratory wave patterns. Hence music that is soothing and uplifting is expected to have a healthy influence on the entire physiology.  No surprise, then, that music has been shown to play a useful role in treating illness. Scientific evidence supports the use of music therapy in helping patients with schizophrenia (Gold, 2015), depression (Maratos, 2008), and many other mental health disorders.  Likewise, the use of music therapy has been shown helpful for patients suffering from medical conditions as well.  For instance, the use of music therapy improves resilience in patients undergoing high risk cancer therapies. (Robb, 2014)

Of course, this phenomenon cuts both ways.  Good music can promote good health, but some types of music can be damaging.  In one interesting study, (Sharma,1996) researchers evaluated the impact of chanting from the vedic literature (sama veda) compared with hard rock (as rendered by the band AC/DC, thru the tune “Back in Black”), or no sound at all, on growth of cancer cell lines in the laboratory.  The investigators observed that the effect of the sama veda was to reduce growth across the cancer cell lines, while the hard rock music actually ended up increasing cancer cell growth. Of course rock and roll comes in many shapes and sizes, but this may not be such great news for habitual consumers of certain genres. 

Thus, the music which we listen to resonates throughout the physiology to promote, depending upon its quality, relaxation or stress, harmony or dissonance, health or disease.  The same is true not only for music, but also for other types of auditory communication. Not only chanting, but even reading scripture is expected to have a health promoting effect, while ingesting the gory details of a violent crime as told by your local television or radio reporter serves to stress the nervous system. The bottom line is, just as we watch our “diet” in terms of what we eat, we must also mind our diet in terms of what we listen to.

It’s worth pointing out the health promoting effects of reading or chanting scripture may be due in part, but not entirely, to meaning or content.  Of course, uplifting content makes us happy and relieves stress, which is good for our energy, balance, immunity, and overall health. Recall also that sounds transmit vibration, and these vibratory patterns are communicated among cells. By this line of reasoning, listening to scripture, especially in the original language, would be expected to have an elevating and health promoting effect, even for those who do not speak or understand that language. That is to say, reading the Bible is better for you than reading the newspaper, and if you can read (or listen to someone else reading) the Bible in Hebrew, all the better.

Not only is what we listen to important, how and when we listen is important as well. People walk around plugged into their smart phones, in a state of constant distraction.  This is a disappointing habit that we should actively discourage others from and avoid falling into ourselves.  It is always best to be present in the moment. The smart phone is a great tool for communication and for accessing information, but multi-tasking will invariably imbalance vata dosha, and a divided mind has an unsettling influence on the physiology, nervous system, and on one’s health.

For example, we tell people to avoid watching the news, or even listening to music during meals.  When we are watching television while eating, we are in effect multitasking, and as always with multitasking, neither of the 2 jobs gets done particularly well.   If during our main meal we are distracted by the news, we may not notice when our digestion signals that the stomach is full, and we then proceed to overeat. So when we eat, we eat, that’s it.  When we listen to music, we listen to music, that’s it. Enjoy each experience, in proper quality, quantity, and time, and without distraction.

In summary, carefully choose music that has a soothing and uplifting impact on the nervous system, while actively avoiding the reverse. At the same time, reduce or avoid the temptation to listen to music while doing other things, liking eating, or jogging. Just as we are what we eat, the same holds true for the sounds our nervous system consumes.  


Gold, C., Heldal, T. O., Dahle, T., & Wigram, T. (2005). Music therapy for schizophrenia or schizophrenia-like illnesses. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. DOI:10.1002/14651858.CD004025.pub2

Maratos, A. S., Gold, C., Wang, X., Crawford, M. J. (2008). Music therapy for depression. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 1. Art. No.: CD004517. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004517.pub2

Robb SL; Burns DS; Stegenga KA; Haut PR; Monahan PO; Meza J; Stump TE; Cherven BO; Docherty SL; Hendricks-Ferguson VL; Kintner EK; Haight AE; Wall DA; Haase JE. Randomized clinical trial of therapeutic music video intervention for resilience outcomes in adolescents/young adults undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplant: a report from the Children’s Oncology Group. Cancer. 120(6):909-17, 2014 Mar 15. 

Sharma H, Kauffman E., Stephens R. Effect of Different Sounds on Human Cancer Cell Lines in Vitro. Alternative Therapies in Clinical Practice, Vol. 3, No. 4, pp. 25-32, 1996