HEALTH PERKS OF PINK NOISE

(Shape) Sounds can upgrade your workout, you happiness and your health. "Sound affects the human body deeply," says Julian Treasure, a sound expert and the founder of the Sound Agency. "We experience it faster than any other sense, and our ears are working even when we're asleep." Noise can influence our heart rate, breathing, brain waves, and hormones, as well as our focus, concentration, and mood, studies show. And the right background noise can motivate you, pushing you to PR in a race or finish a tough project at work. It can also soothe and relax you, melting away stress:

Think pink
First there was white noise to help you zone out. Now experts are discovering pink noise, a mix of high and low sound frequencies. Adults who listened to pink noise while snoozing spent 23 percent more time in unbroken shut-eye, a study in the Journal of Theoretical Biology found. "Pink noise enhances the naturally occurring slow brain waves characteristic of deep sleep, says Phyllis Zee, M.D., Ph.D., the chief of sleep medicine at Northwestern University. To play pink noise all night, try an app line Noisli at iTunes and Google Play.

Rebound faster
Music can reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increase levels of the antibody immunoglobulin A and natural killer T cells, two of the body's best immune defenses, according to research from McGill University. Natural sounds are even better at helping you heal. A recording of rippling water was more effective than music at cutting levels of cortisol, which has been shown to slow recovery, a study in PLOS One found. When you're sick or injured play wildlife sounds or relaxing music. You'll feel tranquil, and you may bet back on your feet faster.

Get stronger
Music is motivating and can stimulate the release of endorphins, boosting stamina, says Julian Treasure, a sound expert and the found of the Sound Agency. Any music you like will help, but faster may be better. Shifts in tempo can make you speed up or slow down accordingly.

Find your natural focus
Sounds of nature increase the resting activity in your brain, calming stress and helping you concentrate, researchers from England report. People are wired to enjoy natural sounds, the study's author says. They blend into your unconscious and block out other noises, letting you zone in on the task at hand. The next time you need to focus, try a playlist of ocean waves or forest sounds. But if you grew up in the city, you might find nature sounds distracting, says study author Cassandra Gould van Praag, Ph.D. If so, try a cityscape playlist.

Use tone to get into the zone
During a sound bath, sound meditation or sound therapy, a practitioner uses singing bowls, gongs, and bells to create tranquil tones that significantly reduce tension, anxiety and pain and lift mood and well-being, a recent study found. "Certain sound frequencies and rhythms shift your brain waves from a more active state to introspective states akin to meditation," says Nate Martinez, a certified sound therapy practitioner. Find a sound bath near you on spafinder.com, or try it at home by searching for sound meditations on YouTube.

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