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🎧 Can you listen your way to happiness?

We seek out beauty for our eyes, delicious food for our tastebuds and nose, and clothes that feel good on our skin, but what about our ears? Is it possible to listen your way to happiness? Can you make your world sound better to feel better? Let’s investigate… 1. ASMR: Touched by sound

The anatomy of ASMR tingles Decoder: ASMR is Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response and it’s all over YouTube. ASMR is a delicate sound such as a whisper, a cat purring or rainfall that can trigger a physical reaction in the listener. ASMR may make you tingle, and is most often used to lull listeners to sleep. Why does ASMR feel good? There are a couple of theories:

  • The gentle sounds of ASMR improve mood because they draw you fully into the present moment.


  • Because ASMR is gentle and non-threatening, it turns down the brain's stressful fight or flight response and cranks up a feeling of calm.

Background: The tingles that ASMR trigger point to the connection between sound and the nervous system. The link between sound and the body goes back…way back…to before you were born. Before you could see, or feel anything other than the warmth of your amniotic bath, you could hear your mother's heartbeat, muffled voices, and that Mozart soundtrack your parents played to make you the smart person you are today. Reality check: when it comes to the effectiveness of ASMR, we have a lot of theory, but not much hard evidence.

The Bottom Line: do a one-person experiment with this popular rainy soundtrack or this library whisper video to see if ASMR has a calming effect on you. ⚠️Caution: tell your partner before you use ASMR as a sleep aid. I played a rainy ASMR soundtrack that woke up my husband and sent him lurching for the front door to check on possible downpours from missing eavestroughs and, when he could see that it wasn't raining, to the bathroom taps in search of leaks. For him, ASMR was not at all soothing. 🤣 Get charged up on The Handbook for Sonic Happiness with Dr. Laurie Santos of The Happiness Lab.

2. 🌈 The colors of sound

Brown noise is having a moment Brown noise has attracted a large fan base, particularly among people with ADHD (attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder). What is brown noise? It’s a combination of all the sounds the ear can detect, with lower frequencies played at a higher volume, and higher frequencies played at a lower volume. The density of brown noise makes it feel smothering in a good way, like a weighted blanket for the ears. Why is it called brown noise? Named after Scottish botanist Robert Brown, who described pollen grains dancing under his microscope, brown noise is a random dance of dense sound. How does brown noise compare with white noise? White noise has a hissing quality, whereas brown noise has a lower, deeper quality. Are there any more noisy colors? You may want to check out pink noise—the gentler easy listening Kenny G version of white noise—or, if you like a good hiss, violet noise. Why does brown noise work?

  • Some say it’s an aural placebo, that brown noise works because people believe it will calm them.

  • Another theory, unique to people with ADHD who have brains that are too hungry for stimulation, is that brown noise gives the brain something to play with, freeing the mind to focus.

  • For the rest of us, brown noise may simply be drowning out our annoying mental chatter or muffling the sound of neighborhood dogs barking when we're trying to sleep.

🤷‍♀️Reality check: Like ASMR, brown noise is not as scientific as it sounds. Bottom line: “If [through sound] you find that happy place—a calm, quiet, consistent brain—it feels so blissful.” - Dr Yamalis Diaz, assistant professor of psychiatry, NYU. Get charged up on brown noise with The New York Times that asks: “Can Brown Noise Turn Off Your Brain?3. 🔬The science of sound

I ❤️ my upbeat workout playlist! The big picture: aside from the use of trendy sounds like ASMR and brown noise, there’s ample evidence that it’s worth paying attention to and actively managing your sonic environment. The research says: pleasant sounds make our lives better. Unpleasant sounds make our lives worse:

  • Do you, like me, turn down the radio when you’re squeezing into a parking space or looking for an address in an unfamiliar neighborhood? You intuitively know what science supports: noise interferes with your ability to think.

  • If you are surrounded by pleasant sounds, you’re more likely to be nice to people.


  • “You become a worse person when there’s bad sounds around,” says Dr. Laurie Santos of the Happiness Lab

  • Music is a performance-enhancing drug: listening to high-tempo music makes exercise feel less strenuous.

Yes, but music isn't always a force for good. When you don't have control over what you're listening to, music can become torture.

  • Baby Shark and Barry Manilow have the power to enforce anti-loitering laws.

  • Music can be used to keep prisoners awake or torment them with its cultural symbolism. For example, Jewish prisoners of concentration camps were forced to listen to the antisemitic composer Wagner.

  • Catchy music that has a lot of repetition can interrupt thought and disrupt the connection to self. Barney is an especially brutal thought disturber.

  • Like a bird call, music marks territory. It says, “This is my area. You are hearing my music. This is not your music.” Playing loud euro dance music over dinner is how a local trendy restaurant keeps an older crowd away.

Even when you control your music, things can go awry... 🤔 Have you ever wondered: What songs can cause car accidents? You can find the answer based on research out of South China University of Technology at the bottom of this newsletter... The bottom line: “I think about music as a sonic prescription. If we become conscious about what we hear, we can make our world sound better.” - Dallas Taylor, host of Twenty Thousand Hertz, a podcast about the stories behind sounds 😎 Get a quick charge out of these cool articles: 🎸 What does your taste in music say about you? (Source: The Washington Post) In general, the music you like most will be the music you listened to at age 14. It will vary according to the qualities of arousal (tempo, energy), emotional valence (happy or sad), and intellectual depth. I’m high arousal, high valence and low depth. I think that means I’m an ABBA. 🚀 “Jane, stop this crazy thing!(Source: Slate) The Jetsons debuted 60 years ago, predicting Zoom, Roomba, and the iMac. What The Jetsons didn’t predict was the toll technology would take on our mental and physical health. “Contrary to popular belief, quitters win a lot.” - Annie Duke (Source: The Atlantic) 🧴Wear sunscreen. (Source: YouTube) Baz Luhrmann, director of the film ELVIS, set Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich’s advice for life to music. ❤️ What's the top research-backed hack to make love last? (Source: The New York Times) “Turn toward” your partner. When your partner makes a bid for your attention, acknowledge it in a positive way. And finally, the best and worst (where is Highway to Hell?) songs for safe driving...happy listening!

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