Maybe it's the noise that has you stressed out...

Oye Mi Canto by Anna Alvarado
There is an intimate connection between the sounds we hear and living healthy. This morning, as I lay in bed for the first half hour of my day listening to birds sing their songs outside my window, I realized how blessed I am that I get to hear birds sing and not gunshots, or hollering and screaming as sadly many people around this city, and other parts of this nation and the world do.

That there are so many birds here in a metropolis of eight million people is always a wonder to me. For a minute I thought that maybe the number of birds have multiplied  but it's more like I've become aware of their beautiful songs. It seems that I am no longer "suppressing" sound, which is what Ted speaker and sound expert Julian Treasure says most of have done. It's a protection mechanism from all the horrible sounds that we have to endure as we go about our daily grind.

Treasure, in his wonderful talk on The 4 Ways Sounds Affects Us,  (see jump for the video) says that because most of the sounds we experience are accidental noises -- fire, cop, or ambulance alarms, construction equipment, trains, buses, cars, etc.--to protect ourselves, we pretend that they don't exist. As a result we experience all these horrid noises unconsciously. To put it another way, it's like we hear and we don't hear. But whether or not we are aware of the noise that surrounds us, it is affecting our behaviour,  emotional, cognitive and physiologically state nonetheless.

Noises can kick start our fight or flight response, ie raising the cortisol or stress levels (not good) or  sooth our emotional state and even lower our breathing. We can fall in love, or disgust, really, we can. Sounds can heal or harm. In fact, when birds sing, according to Treasure, it signals to the brain that things are safe. It's when they stop signing that we need to worry. Makes sense to me!

Check Treasure's talk and become aware of the four ways in which sounds affect you. And start curating what you let in those pretty little ears.



Shocker: Humans are equipped with small bandwidths with which to process sounds so open work spaces as cool as they are, are less productive because of the competing sounds. We can't decide what sounds we listen and it reduces our productivity.


Bad sounds -- and you know it when you hear them, just watch your heart rate, blood pressure or emotional state and you will identify what is what -- compromise your health. Whenever you can, make it your business to curate the sound. Be gentle with what you let in.

In your home, make sure that you set the mood for yourself, and those around you. Music heals and it's extremely powerful. Carry soothing music, and you know it when you hear it, on iPod or Pandora. It works. If you have to work in an open or noisy space, plug in the headphones and turn on birds songs or any sound that you find soothing. According to Treasure productivity will rise by three triply.

Treasure recommends 5 minutes of bird songs a day. Having started and ended my day with bird songs, I do too.









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