18 February 2022

Reinvigorate your soundscape (for your mental health’s sake)

Expert comment
It’s February already, but 2022 still feels fresh out of its box – and with the uncertainties of the pandemic not entirely behind us, it’s as important as ever to make space for our mental wellbeing.

As the audio branding experts, we know from experience how the right sounds can lift our mood.

Highly emotional music releases dopamine in our brains, the chemical associated with pleasure and reward – whereas others studies show certain noises, like industrial clangs or even busy traffic, trigger a fight-or-flight instinct, acting as stressors. In short, it matters what we hear.

On that note (pun intended), we’ve outlined a few small changes that you can make to your daily soundscape, with a view to boosting feel-good chemicals and improving your general mental health.

 

Your morning alarm

The ringing or beeping of a traditional alarm clock sends our cortisol levels (the stress hormone) into overdrive. We tend to associate such high-pitched, shrill sounds with danger – it’s an ‘alarm’, after all.

So, is shocking your body into threat response really the most productive start to the day? We think not. Instead, swap it for a song that you associate with motivation and positivity – and make sure to mix it up every week so your favourite tune doesn’t lose its shine.

Some examples might be:

Cheesy? Yes. Bound to get you beaming first thing? Also yes. It’s energetic but, with a friendly lower pitch and steady build up, the only thing you’ll fight-or-flight here is your urge to join in.

A little more calming, with organic instrumentation and Norah’s husky vocals to lift you gently from your slumbers – and still with enough bounce to see you throwing open the curtains and catching that sunrise for yourself.

Feeling Good. The title says it all – and if you’re not awake immediately, you will be when the brass kicks in. Nina’s lone vocal melody is soft and jazzy – a far cry from the harsh tones of your standard alarm clock.

You can use the magic of sound to your advantage from a business perspective, too. Choose the right melodies in your lifts, on your shop floor, or as your hold music, to help your staff and customers associate your business with positivity and reward.

 

Your morning commute

We might not all be back in the office, but this applies to any travel time. Instead of the rattling and clanking of the train, or the honking and revving of the road, treat your ears to something that’ll enlighten your mind and blow away the cobwebs.

Podcasts, for instance, are soaring in popularity. If you’re new to podcasts, think of them as on-demand talk radio. There are literally millions to choose from, on practically any topic.


Stuff You Should Know
 is a good choice for getting your cogs turning and ready for the working day ahead. From unsolved mysteries to the everyday intricacies we take for granted – presenters Josh and Chuck will feed your curiosity with their wholesome breakdown of pretty much anything (we audio nerds zeroed in on the ‘Noise pollution’ episode straight away!).

Alternatively, You’re Dead To Me – where host Greg Jenner chats to both historians and comedians about little-known stories from the past – is practically guaranteed to boost your endorphins and serotonin (i.e. the ‘happy hormones’) by giving you something to laugh along with.

Podcasts are such an effective way of engaging listeners and showcasing expertise that lots of businesses are starting up their own, or buying established ones. If you can inject a little humour into your podcast, you’re onto an even bigger winner – those endorphins produced while laughing encourage social bonding, which can help listeners form stronger bonds with your brand.

 

Your lunchbreak

Many of us know the benefits of a walk as part of our lunchbreak routine, and part of that is down to the sounds you hear. Studies demonstrate how melodic birdsong has a restorative effect on our mental health – even improving attentiveness while relieving stress.

But don’t worry if your local birds prefer a different neighbourhood – listening to their recorded chirpings on your phone has the same result as hearing them in real life, with the bonus of cutting out the disruptive buzz of urban life.

In fact, soaking up any natural sounds has been shown to produce a relaxed and outward-directed focus of attention, while artificial noises result in the inward-directed focus associated with stress, PTSD, and depression.

So tune out from the rumbling traffic, and tune in to the rustling of woodland creatures, the whisper of trees, and the soft patter of rain – which you can find on YouTube, on apps like Naturespace or (if you’re lucky) performed live in your local park.

This same thinking can be applied in a business setting too. For instances, if you’re a dentist, you might want to play nature’s chorus into your waiting area to help calm your patients’ nerves!

 

Bedtime

There’s a reason we sing babies to sleep – it’s relaxing, reassuring, and distracts them from their cares. We’re not about to suggest you play ‘Row, Row, Row Your Boat’ on repeat before bed, but the principle remains – a positive sonic experience sets you up for a refreshing slumber, which is key to improved mental health.

Listening to an audiobook is an ideal way to switch off from intrusive thoughts and let your brain relax, while avoiding the blue light of screens that can make switching off hard. Revisiting a childhood favourite is sure to put you at ease (we find comfort in the familiar, after all) – and you won’t stay up needing to find out what happens next…!

Alternatively, settle down to some deeply calming tunes. The BBC’s Late in the Day show infuses your evening with two hours of gentle music and quiet vibes, helping your body sink into a state of calm, so that sleep comes easily.

If your brand is in the business of sleep (like mattresses, beds or insomnia treatments), go the extra mile for customers by creating a playlist of easy-going numbers on your company’s Spotify and make it available to your customers – that way, you’ll stay at the forefront of their minds, demonstrate a commitment to wellbeing, and likely connect with a younger audience.

After all, sound, with its ability to incite emotional responses, is powerful. So make sure you’re mobilising your business’s audio touchpoints as well as your own – and harness the wonders of sound in 2022. Get in touch with us to find out more.

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