Now Hear This
Kimberley Coole/Getty Images

Since ancient times, sound has been used to promote health and emotional well-being. The Australian aborigines began using the didgeridoo as a healing tool more than 40,000 years ago, and other cultures sang, beat gongs, and chanted.

Today’s use of sound in medicine goes beyond the melody, employing vibrations from objects that resonate such as tuning forks, Tibetan singing bowls, and now special sound chairs and pillows that convert music into tactile sensations — to not only induce relaxation but reduce pain, anxiety, and other ailments. 

“Every part of our body — bones, tissues, cells — has an optimal frequency that, when working properly, creates harmony,” says Jonathan Goldman, CEO of Healing Sounds; director of the Sound Healers Association in Boulder, Colorado; and author of several books including Healing Sounds and 7 Secrets of Sound Healing. But if one part begins to vibrate differently, “this is what we call disease.”

Tibetan bowls, when “struck and sung,” create a sound frequency that brings the body back into a state of balance, says Diane Mandle, a certified Tibetan-bowl sound healer.

“The harmonic vibrations engage the relaxation reflex and slow down the respiratory, brain, and heart rate, and disrupt the pain reflex, creating a deep sense of well-being,” she says.

This advice might just be worth listening to.

Forget where you put your car keys? A fresh cup of coffee or tea could help.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins have found that consuming caffeine may boost long-term memory. “We’ve always known that caffeine has cognitive-enhancing effects, but its particular effects on strengthening memories and making them resistant to forgetting has never been examined in detail in humans,” says Michael Yassa, assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at Johns Hopkins University.

Yassa and his team asked 60 people to look at a series of images depicting different objects. Five minutes afterward, participants were given either a placebo or 200 milligrams of caffeine in tablet form. The next day, participants were tested on their ability to recognize images from the day before. Some items were new, others altered. More people from the “caffeine” group correctly recalled that an image was similar to, rather than identical with, the one they had viewed earlier. This reflects a deeper level of memory retention, researchers say, and jibes with research published in the journal Public Health Nutrition that reports one or two cups of tea a day can boost brain power and athletic performance — even for children.

Dr. Carrie Ruxton, the dietician behind the latest study and a member of the Tea Advisory Panel, says children scored higher on tests measuring their mental agility, attention, dexterity, and memory after having a small amount of caffeine. It didn’t matter whether the subjects drank green, black, or oolong tea.

COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS. Studies show small acts of gratitude can improve one’s health and happiness. Need some ideas for getting started? Write a thank you note to someone who changed your life for the better; jot down one thing you are thankful for every day; pay a stranger a compliment; leave a larger tip than usual. Not only will you brighten someone else’s day, you’ll feel better about yourself.