With physician burnout on the rise, sound healing — a meditation technique that focuses on the power of sound — may offer a solution.
Burnout is a constant, looming threat for physicians: At least 50% of physicians, 34% of nurses, and 60% of all healthcare workers have reported feeling burnt out. With such high rates of burnout, the healthcare industry is constantly on the lookout for ways to help ease this burden. Sound healing is one trend in that direction.
Sound healing has been used for more than 30,000 years by Australian Aborigines, who used the didgeridoo for healing purposes. Mitchell Gaynor, MD, was one of the first physicians to bring sound healing into a structured medical environment, combining the use of meditation and sound to complement healing in his oncology practice.
Through sound healing, participants can quiet their minds, dissolve tension, and facilitate deep relaxation. Sound healing works on several different levels: On one level, it evokes psychological and emotional responses from the participant; on another level, sounds can create resonance, wherein powerful rhythmic vibrations can be passed on. On a third level, sound can entrain the nervous system to particular frequencies.
Today, sound healing incorporates a variety of modalities, including voice (singing, chanting, polyphonic singing, and toning) and instruments (drums, Tibetan/crystal bowls, tuning forks, and Ting-Shas).
For a simple sound healing self-care exercise, try the “voo” exercise:
- Slowly inhale. Take a small pause, then begin to breathe out. As you breathe out, gently say “voo,” sustaining the sound through the entire exhalation. Vibrate the sound as if it were coming from your stomach.
- Once your breath and sound have fully expired, pause. Let your next breath fill your stomach and chest when it is ready.
- Repeat your exhalation and vocalization of “voo.”
- Repeat several times, and then rest.
The voo exercise helps emphasizes waiting and allowing, with an empowerment that is derived from creating your own sound and connecting it to the body. By enlivening the viscera and breath, the participant can focus on expelling negative energy and replacing it with a feeling of being grounded.
Sound healing may certainly arouse skepticism among some physicians. Of course, with no real negative effects to worry about, there is really no harm in giving it a try. Next time you feel stressed or burnt out at work, try finding a quiet place to practice some sound healing. You may find that this technique has great benefits for you.
O’Malley M, Sabo N. Yoga-mindfulness and sound-healing to prevent burnout, compassion fatigue, and secondary stress in psychiatrists and mental health providers. Presented at: American Psychiatric Association (APA) 2018 Annual Meeting; May 5-9, 2018; New York.