The Absolute Beginners Guide to Sound Healing

Sound healing is an ancient healing practice that uses sound and music to bring balance and harmony to the body and mind. In this guide, you'll discover how healing with sound can help you relax, reduce stress, boost your energy levels and improve your overall health and wellbeing.

What is Sound Healing?

Healing with sound is a therapeutic technique that uses vibrational frequency to restore physical and emotional health. It has been used for centuries to help people in many cultures improve mental clarity, increase energy levels, reduce stress, enhance creativity, and deepen connection with oneself and with others. With the right guidance, sound healing can be safe and affordable for everyone. 

How Healing With Sound Gave Me Hope

If you clicked on this guide because you’re looking for help feeling better, let me share my story of how healing with sound helped me heal from a severe health challenge.

In mid-February 2019, I returned home from an intensely painful two-week ordeal in the Intensive Care Unit where doctors and nurses saved my life no less than three times—two of which I remember vividly.

I had the misfortune of multiple abdominal surgeries gone wrong—resulting in septic shock, the loss of over 40 lbs of muscle mass, and a degradation of my vocal cords from all the tubes going up my nose and down my throat.  

The result was an utter collapse in my ability to do much of anything.

Besides the pain of having to re-learn how to sit up in bed and eventually walk again, I had no tolerance for anything, not the sound of my loved ones voices, not sunlight, nothing. 

Even my hair hurt.

As I faced the challenge of months of rehabilitation, I was motivated to get my life back, yet I lacked energy.

Deep down, I knew this healing process was going to take time and that I ought to “practice what I preach” when it came to helping my body to heal.

Along with copious amounts of sleep, a nutritionally dense diet and very slow walking — I added the daily sound healing practices I’d been teaching others to my daily routine.

I knew that healing with sound wasn’t some magical cure, but rather, a way to help my body return to its optimal state to repair itself.

Practicing these sound healing exercises also helped me to relax, releasing the pressure in the areas around my stitches which lowered my pain.

The key was that I kept at it every day for just a few moments at a time. Eventually, I increased the length of the exercises as my endurance increased. 

Little by little, my strength grew, my voice improved, and my wounds began to heal.

Even though I’ve known for years about the therapeutic benefits of sound healing, I’ll admit even I was surprised at just how fast these exercises helped me to rebuild my vitality.

Six months later, I was back on stage again, singing and playing three hour shows with my band The Sun King Warriors.

Of course, my story is just that—my own personal experience. 

And like most things in life, you get out what you put in.

But let’s be clear, I’m not a medical doctor, nor am I claiming that sound healing is a cure for anything.

If I’m not well, I go to my doctor and depend on his/her expertise for guidance.

In fact, none of what you read in this guide should be construed as personal medical advice or instruction. All of it is offered as education only. 

You should always consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to your health and well-being.

Let's dig in!

Getting Started with Sound Healing 

Given the intensity of our world, it's no wonder that we are living through what many are calling a mental health crisis. And unfortunately, too many of us are experiencing unprecedented levels of anxiety, depression, chronic pain and sleep troubles. 

When these problems arise, we are often encouraged by the Big Pharma marketing machines to consume one more “quick fix pill” to make these problems "go away”. 

Even though many people need pharmaceutical treatments—and while these treatments can be incredibly helpful—what you usually aren’t taught is how to manage these problems for yourself in ways that are natural, based in peer-reviewed scientific research, and that work quickly. 

That’s why I created The Absolute Beginners Guide to Sound Healing.

It shows you what you need to know about sound healing, the science supporting it, plus several therapeutic sound exercises that you can try out today.

At the end of this comprehensive guide, I'll even share a full video tutorial of one of my most potent exercises called The Full Body Sound Healing Sequence.

If we haven't met, my name's Jim Donovan M.Ed. Welcome!

Since 1999, I’ve been teaching people just like you how to use sound and music to enhance personal wellness.

In that time, I’ve:

Led over 3000 live events.

Sold over 60,000 sound healing products.

Shared a sound healing technique for sleep with millions of people in my TedX talk.

I'm also an Assistant Professor at Saint Francis University where I direct the Music and Wellness program.

Through all of these years of working with people, I’ve concluded that one of the best uses of my time on the planet is to share this information with as many others as I can. 


  • Because there's a growing number of studies showing sound to be an effective and natural way to alleviate anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and neurodegeneration—to name a few.
  • Because I’ve personally witnessed and had heard from countless people who have success with these easy-to-learn strategies.
  • Because sound is natural, side effect free and the ability to make it is built right into your own body!

I'm here to tell you that it is possible to get real relief, feel more alive, and reclaim your peace-of-mind—using the healing power of sound. 

If you’ll allow me, I’d love to show you how.

To that end, this guide exists for three simple reasons:

  1. To help you feel results right away so that you’ll be excited to tell everyone you know about what you’re learning.
  2. So that perhaps you’ll try my guided exercises to help you achieve all that you read here.
  3. Because I believe that you should know about sound healing, and how to use your body’s own healing frequencies using vagus nerve stimulation.

A little later in this guide, I’ll share several potent sound healing exercises you can do today to start feeling better immediately.

But first, let me share some of the key health benefits of sound healing. 

What are the benefits of sound healing?

The benefits of sound healing are numerous and include reduced stress and anxiety, improved sleep, increased focus and clarity, improved immunity, accelerated healing and recovery, and even pain relief. Sound healing also increases your heart rate variability (HRV) which can help strengthen our body’s self-regulating systems. 

In fact, healing with sound may be able to help you solve some of your most nagging health challenges — including: 

As you’ll soon discover, this Absolute Beginners Guide to Sound Healing offers you several effective solutions for these frustrating problems.

You’ll also explore what could potentially be at the root of these problems, and how you can use the therapeutic power of sound to reverse them. 

You’ll also dive into some specific methods and strategies you can start doing today to begin feeling whole body rejuvenation. 

These are the exact methods I personally used to literally bring my entire body and brain back from the brink of death in 2019.

My hope is that you’ll begin your own sound healing practice by the time you finish this guide or sooner!

The Ancient History of Healing with Sound

Healing with sound and vibration has been happening for a very long time.

From ancient Greeks to the Bible, many cultures have long turned to the healing power of sound frequencies. These tones help promote homeostasis within the body and reduce stress, leading to healthier overall well-being.

Evidence suggests that music was even used by physicians like Aristotle to cure patients, as he believed its vibrations could purify the soul and evoke strong emotions. Nowadays, research is demonstrating that these sounds can help with an array of illnesses—inspiring growing interest in this centuries-old form of therapy.

Source: Two people in tent with healing drum. Bhimbetka rock art sites, Central India 12,000 BC.

In fact, the therapeutic use of sound—along with rhythm, dance, and song—has been used for millennia in indigenous societies globally.

Here are just a few examples. 

The shaman’s of Siberia….

Adyg Eeren (Spirit of Bear) shamanic society in Tuva, Siberia, Russia. Nikon FM3a. Photo by Vladimir Shibanov.

East Asian Buddhist chanting and singing bowl traditions


The Norwegian/Finnish Sami "Joik" singing tradition...




The didgeridoos of Australian aboriginal people...










Unidentified aborigine persons perform music with traditional instruments in Australia. Source.

Ancient philosophers including Plato considered music to be “the medicine of the soul” (Gfeller, 2002). And this research paper describes how Greek physicians used flutes, lyres, and zithers to heal their patients — using vibration to aid in digestion, treat mental disturbance, and induce sleep.

Aristotle (323–373 BCE), in his famous book De Anima, wrote that flute music could arouse strong emotions and purify the soul.

You can even find biblical references to the healing power of music where it is referenced hundreds of times in both the Old Testament and New Testament

The truth is that, throughout the ages, the use of sound frequencies — from musical instruments and one’s voice — has helped people bring body, mind and spirit back into balance.

This is true amongst cultures separated by oceans who — for thousands of years — were unable to communicate with, nor had any knowledge of each other.

Yet, the fact remains that the early healers from all over the planet used sound to help their people to be well.

Think about that.

Our ancestors used sound healing regularly to feel better.

Why would they do that?

And why would these practices last throughout the entirety of known human history?

I believe that’s because healing with sound is an effective way to help the the human body get back into balance—also known as homeostasis.

And, as your doctor will tell you, in homeostasis, your body is in its ideal state to repair itself. 

But just how does sound healing help your body to “rebalance" itself? 

Does Sound Healing Really Work? 


Source: Jim Donovan sound healing tutorials. Here's a free one to try.

Your body can heal and regenerate itself.  It’s been doing so all of your life! 

No, your body doesn’t simply regenerate every seven years — it’s a little more complicated than that. But it does regenerate.

Here's a more accurate picture of how the body regenerates itself:

As you can see, some parts of you are constantly being renewed, while others do so over a longer period of time.

But to do so in the most effective and efficient way, your body needs access to its energetic resources. 

Unfortunately, many of us "spend" these resources on other things that inhibit the body from replenishing itself as much as it could, including:

  • Poor diet.
  • Habits like smoking or substance over use.
  • Not making good sleep important.
  • Ignoring chronic stress.

But the good news is that guiding your body into its ideal healing condition is the main purpose of sound healing.

But how?

At first glance, the notion that you can use sound to “heal” anything might seem odd. 

To help make sense of this important idea, it is helpful to have an understanding about what exactly sound is. 

In essence, sound is vibration — and vibration is energy that’s moving.

Now consider this:

When you feel anxious or stressed out, think about what typically happens physically in your body. Your breathing becomes shallow, muscles tense up and, in some cases, you may even experience some sort of pain. 

That’s because during stress, the body tightens to protect itself—especially our inner organs—from danger at all costs. 

And while this constriction might be helpful in the short term for bodily protection, left unchecked, it can turn into conditions that we would be wise to prevent if at all possible. 

Unchecked chronic stress is known to be a significant factor in diseases like heart attacks, stroke, diabetes, and obesity among many others. 

Fortunately, sound is a remarkably efficient tool to reverse the physiological constriction brought about by stress. 

Remember that sound is vibration and vibration is energy moving. 

And understanding how to use specific sounds in specific ways can help anyone reduce and even eliminate physical, mental and emotional “constriction” so that you can experience more clarity, relief and improved health.

In the next section, I’d like to share an easy sound healing exercise so you can “feel” what I’m talking about. It’s something I call “Brain Humming”.

Brain Humming: An Easy Vagal Nerve Stimulation Exercise

Brain Humming involves humming a simple sound in a specific and deliberate way. 

Now, for some people, even the thought of vocalizing in a way other than speaking can be an uncomfortable idea. 

Early on in my life, I experienced similar discomfort and want to encourage you to at least give this method a chance to work by trying it out at least five times before deciding whether they are for you or not.

Before performing any exercises, please consult with your doctor to make sure that you are healthy enough to do them. 

As a rule of thumb, always listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel comfortable, stop the exercise and take a break. 

Always feel free to adjust any exercise according to what you can comfortably do. 

Ready to try it? 

Find a comfortable place where you can freely make sound and not be disturbed and take ten seconds and notice how you feel in your mind, body and mood.

How to Do the Brain Humming Technique

  1. Focus your attention on the top of your head. Feel free to place your palm on the very top of your head. This so you can feel the vibration I mentioned a moment ago.
  2. Next, please keep your back molars and lips together. Doing so sends sound vibration directly up into your brain.
  3. Now, inhale a full breath and gently exhale the sound of the letter “M” for the complete exhalation. Remember to keep your back molars and lips together.
  4. The more sound you make, without straining your voice, the better the technique works.
  5. Repeat 4 -8 times if you can. Less is OK too.
  6. When you're done, just breathe at your normal pace and relax for 30 seconds.
  7. Notice how you feel in your mind, body and mood. 
  8. If you’d like to deepen the experience, feel free to do several more repetitions of Brain Humming.

When I've taught Brain Humming to others over the years, the most common responses I’ve heard include:

  • Feeling a “buzzy” feeling in your head from the vibration.
  • Yawning.
  • Mental clarity.
  • A sense of peacefulness.
  • Feeling deeply relaxed or energized or both simultaneously.

Now if you feel nothing yet, don’t worry, you’re not broken!

You might need to try:

  • Using a little more vocal volume.
  • Increase the number of repetitions of the exercise.
  • Turning off all external distractions.
  • Focusing all of your attention on the feeling of the vibration as you make the sound.

Remember, that it’s important to give these methods a chance to work by trying them out on multiple occasions—at least five times—before deciding whether they are for you or not.

Of course, if you need more help, you might enjoy this special sound healing bundle

If this Brain Humming exercise is already starting to help you feel good, I assure you, this is the tip of the iceberg in your journey to unlocking how sound can help you feel even better! Here's a free in-depth vagal nerve exercise to try.

Now let’s explore the science behind how and why sound healing exercises work—and the ways modern medicine is already using it.

The Science Behind How Sound Healing Works

It might surprise you to know that the simple Brain Humming exercise you just did holds a vast amount of restorative potential for a wide array of ailments. 

Over the past decade or so, many of the country’s most reputable doctors have already been successfully treating patients using the power of sound and vibration—using a variety of applications.

For example, ultrasound treatments, which emit vibrations from sound wave frequencies, have been used to heal wounds, mend bone fractures, and unclog blocked arteries. This type of treatment is even being used to help shrink malignant tumors! 

Doctors are also using other vibration-based solutions like devices that stimulate the vagus nerve—the longest nerve in your body, spanning from your brain stem to your abdomen.

I’ll be telling you much more about the vagus nerve in a later section of this guide.

These particular treatments are being used to reduce drug-resistant epileptic seizures, alleviate treatment-resistant depression, and improve the balance in Parkinson’s patients so that they may walk again.

Most recently, other sound frequency therapies use vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) to address even more health issues like: anxiety, brain injury rehabilitation, headaches, high blood pressure, inflammation, inflammatory bowel diseases, tendonitis, and PTSD trauma-induced pain. 

Despite their ancient origins, sound-and vibration-focused practices are finally being "rediscovered" by modern medicine and not a moment too soon!

And judging by the surge of new medical research on the vagus nerve and vagus nerve stimulation, I predict it will be the next big thing in modern medicine.

Think about it…

Sound and vibration enter the body naturally, and in some cases, can help the body heal itself without medications or risky surgeries.

But if you aren’t currently suffering from an injury or health ailment, you can still reap the benefits of sound and vibration — especially if you want to enrich your health.

The truth is that an increasing number of studies show that sound based vagal nerve exercises—like the ones I’ll teach you in this guide—work to:

But don’t just take my word for it.

Here are a few highlights of this notable research on the major benefits of sound healing:

  • In a 2018 study published in Frontiers in Psychiatry, researchers found that after just three months of vagus nerve stimulation, study participants suffering from depression saw a remission rate of 17 percent. And after one year of treatment, the remission rate rose to 33 percent.
  • Studies in the Journal of Natural Science, Biology, and Medicine have shown that vagus nerve stimulation increases neurogenesis—the formation of new brain cells—in the hippocampus, a part of the brain that plays a critical role in learning and memory.
  • In another 2018 study published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, 54 participants regularly performed a vagal stimulation technique for three months, resulting in an 81 percent reduction in hyper reactivity (stress-induced blood pressure changes) and significantly lower diastolic blood pressure numbers.

But exactly how does sound healing help?

To answer that, we first need to talk about chronic stress.

How Healing With Sound Helps to Lower Chronic Stress

It’s easy to take for granted what a remarkable machine your body is.

But every second of every day, it does incredible things. Cells continually regenerate, your lungs filter the air you breathe, your immune system destroys intruders, and your heart pumps blood through your entire body. 

All of these processes happen automatically, without you ever having to think about them.

Of course, you need those basic functions in order to survive.

But to truly thrive, your body needs to be able to heal—especially from the continual “wear and tear” of life.

Using active sound healing exercises can help your body to stop “wasting” energy so that it can enter a state of healing.

And the biggest energy wasting culprit is chronic stress.

If you feel as if you’re stuck in a vicious cycle where you just can’t shake a looming feeling of worry, have trouble relaxing, or are constantly overwhelmed…you could very well be suffering from chronic stress.

Of course, it’s normal to experience stress every now and then, but if this is a regular occurrence for you, it could have some seriously lethal effects.

For one, chronic stress slows down your body’s natural healing process—specifically your immune system and tissue repair. 

That’s because your body tends to focus its energy on tackling the greatest immediate threat to your well-being. And for most people, this is stress.

In other words, the more stressed you are, the LONGER it takes for your body to rebuild and heal itself.

As a result, your body ends up using its energy and resources to address your stressors first. This means that the other maintenance functions your body would normally perform, like healing and repairing, have no choice but to take a backseat.

In short, your immune system plays a crucial role in every one of your body’s healing processes. And psychological and behavioral factors like stress, mood, and sleep patterns all influence this.

Watch out for excess cortisol build up!

Another way chronic stress hinders your body’s healing processes is with excess build-up of the “stress hormone,” cortisol.

The problem with too much cortisol is that over time, it breaks down organ tissue and kills your brain cells.

Obviously, this can be a huge problem. Especially after you factor in the damaging coping mechanisms most people resort to when in the throes of chronic stress, like: 

  • Alcohol
  • Comfort food
  • Excessive eating
  • Recreational drugs
  • Vegging out in front of the TV or computer

And guess how much cortisol gets burned off while engaging with those activities or substances?


These coping mechanisms don’t directly address or alleviate the stress at hand, they just merely help you sweep it under the rug and forget about it for a while.

And even though these things might temporarily help you feel better, cortisol is STILL hard at work wreaking havoc in your body. And your body is STILL working to deal with addressing and eliminating this ignored stress. 

Chronic stress leads to chronic disease

Now I know for some people, chronic stress may not seem like that big of a deal. In fact, you may even be used to it, or have just accepted it as a part of your everyday life.

But here’s why that’s a real problem: Mounds of research shows that unchecked chronic stress and the ensuing build-up of cortisol leads to serious chronic, deadly diseases. These include stroke, heart attack, and diabetes. 

In short, ignoring chronic stress significantly increases your likelihood of cutting YEARS off of your life.

Now that you have a better understanding of how chronic stress can cause some real damage in our body, let’s dig into the powerful, built-in bodily healing system you were probably never told about.


Vagus Nerve Stimulation: Using a Key Bodily Healing System

 Source: Jim Donovan Sound Healing Exercise: Stimulate Vagus Nerve

I’ll never forget the feeling I got after those three elongated “Om” sounds” at the end of my first yoga class back in 1990. 

I knew immediately that sound had helped me because I could actually feel a tangible change in my body and mind. 

I felt centered, relaxed, and at ease. My mind was no longer racing… I had clarity for the first time in weeks. And my whole body just felt “lighter.”

What I didn’t understand at the time was why it was helping me.

And so upon searching research databases like and, I began to uncover studies showing how sound affects a part of the body I mentioned earlier — the vagus nerve.


Little did I know that learning about this one nerve would unlock many answers about how self-created sound positively affects the body.

You see, when you produce sound, your vocal cords vibrate.

This deep inner-body vibration stimulates your vagus nerve—the longest cranial nerve in your body. This nerve runs down from your brain to your abdomen, touching and interacting with all of your major organs along the way.

And when you stimulate this nerve, it activates your parasympathetic nervous system—the part of you in charge of rest, digest and restoration processes. 

When this happens, your body releases the natural chemicals that make you feel calm and at ease—putting you in your optimal state for healing. 

This technique is called vagus nerve stimulation (VNS).


The Vagus Nerve and several key functions. Source

Healig with sound based vagus nerve stimulation can have such a positive impact on whole-body health because it helps “turn stress off”. And the more relaxed you are, the better equipped your body is to do its essential repair work.

Now most of us were taught basic anatomy in school. You probably know all about most of the body’s major organs and systems.

So when I first learned of the vagus nerve, my mind was blown.

I had no idea this nerve existed inside my body, much less all of the remarkable things it could do for my health—like help me sleep better, speed up healing, ease my anxiety, and improve my memory… just to name a few.

All I could think was, “Why haven’t I ever heard of this before?”

That’s why I want to tell you what I wish I’d discovered decades ago, about one of your body’s most important—but little-known—natural healing systems.

What is the Vagus Nerve and How Does Sound Healing Help?

Your vagus nerve, also called the “wandering nerve,” is the longest nerve in your body.

It begins at the bottom of your brain stem and travels through your body, touching every major organ, and stopping at your abdomen. 

Simply put—it’s the pathway between your brain and your body.

Your vagus nerve is a lot like a thermostat… It automatically kicks on to keep everything in perfect balance. And research has shown that the vagus nerve is vital to many of the crucial, yet delicate, processes in the body, including:

  • Blood sugar
  • Blood pressure
  • Inflammation
  • Free radicals
  • Oxygen levels in your blood
  • Stress and calm inducing chemicals

Think of your vagus nerve as your body’s neurochemical “superhighway”—carrying signals between the brain and your vital organs. 

One of the most important of these signals determines whether your body goes on high alert or remains calm.

When you’re stressed or frightened, the vagus nerve signals for your sympathetic nervous system to rev into high gear. Think of it as the gas pedal in a car. 

This part of your nervous systems heightens your awareness and prepares your body to go into “fight or flight” mode and chemicals like adrenaline course through your body.

When your body is calm, your parasympathetic (or “rest and digest”) system is dominant.  

Think of it as the brake pedal on a car. Achieving this state is ideal as it reduces stress, regulates your blood pressure, and slows your heart rate. It also helps the body focus on healing.

When you use sound based vagal nerve exercises, your body produces those “feel good” chemicals that help it to relax—including oxytocin, dopamine, and endorphins.    

And the more time we spend "in" our parasympathetic nervous system, the healthier we are. Our breathing calms, our heart rate slows, we repair muscles, build strength, make hormones, and digest our food.

What does the vagus nerve do?

While the answer could literally fill a medical textbook, let’s take a look at a few early highlights.

A few decades ago, scientists ramped up research on this remarkable part of our anatomy.

The more they investigated, the more questions they had—leading to more and more research that continues to this day.

For example:

In 1997 researchers discovered they now had the power to control deadly seizures in epileptic patients--simply by stimulating this untouched nerve.

In 1999 Stony Brook Medical University researchers discovered they could literally control an individual’s heart beat simply by stimulating it —forever changing the science and creating new standards for heart health.

In 2002, famed neurosurgeon, Kevin Tracey was the first to prove stimulating the vagus nerve could significantly reduce inflammation. First attempted in mice, the results were so strong, it was quickly sent to human trials—where the results were just as impressive.

In 2004, University of Virginia researchers were amazed at their ability to strengthen memory in subjects—simply by stimulating the Vagus Nerve.

Fast forward to the present, researchers are now studying how vagal nerve exercises can positively affect so many other aspect of our heath including:

  • Grow new brain cells (2013)
  • Delay the onset of Alzheimers  (2018)
  • Lower blood pressure (2018)
  • Lift depression (2018)
  • Reduce tinnitus symptoms (2020)
  • Protect against viruses by boosting the antiviral chemical nitric oxide (2020)

This ongoing vagus nerve research is so exciting because with each new study unlocks ways we can positively affect our own health — if we know how.

I’m going to teach you several more vagal nerve exercises using sound do just that in upcoming sections — including exactly how to turn on your body’s feel good chemicals. 

But first, I want to tell you about one more REALLY important aspect of your body’s healing system that every person needs to know — the importance of vagal tone.

What is Vagal Tone? 

Now that you have a better understanding of your vagus nerve and your nervous system, let’s discuss the role vagal tone plays in your body. 

Vagal tone is a measure of the amount of information flowing from the brainstem area to your heart—helping to regulate it.  

It determines how fast your body shifts from your sympathetic nervous system back to your parasympathetic system.

In other words, it measures how well you bounce back after a stressful event. 

When your vagal tone is strong, your parasympathetic nervous system can return your body to a calm state quickly and easily.

Typically, the higher your vagal tone, the better your body is at reaching that ideal resting state.

Recently, scientists made some fascinating discoveries on vagal tone’s effects on health and aging.

In a recent study, a team of researchers measured the vagal tone of a group of adults aged 50 and over. Over the course of nearly two years, they found that those with higher vagal tone consistently and overwhelmingly outlived those with low vagal tone.

And there are plenty of reasons for this. According to health journalist Gaia Vince, people with high vagal tone are not just healthier, “They’re also socially and psychologically stronger—happier, better able to concentrate and remember things, more empathetic, less prone to depression, and more likely to have close friendships.”

Vince adds that high vagal tone has also been linked to blood glucose regulation, which reduces risk for diabetes, stroke, and cardiovascular disease.

But when it comes to low vagal tone, it appears that the direct opposite is true. Low vagal tone can send your most crucial bodily processes out of balance in countless ways…

The consequences of low vagal tone

If your vagal tone is too low, it can cause a laundry list of health issues, negatively affecting your:

  • Blood pressure
  • Blood sugar
  • Digestion
  • Immune function
  • Inflammation levels
  • Mental function and memory
  • Mood and happiness
  • Pain
  • Sex drive
  • Weight

Low vagal tone has been linked to chronic inflammation—one of the prime underlying factors associated with the development of chronic disease. 

And like many biological functions, your vagal tone declines with age.

So it’s crucial to take action before you start experiencing problems. And although there isn’t much you can do to stop aging, there are plenty of ways you can naturally reverse low vagal tone.

But before I talk how you can improve your vagal tone, how can you determine whether yours is low to begin with?

How To Find Your Vagal Tone

A doctor can determine your vagal tone with an electrocardiogram (or EKG). This is a simple, pain-free test that measures your heart rate.

Every time you inhale, your heart beats faster to speed up the flow of oxygenated blood throughout your body. And when you breathe out, your heart rate slows. 

This is called your heart rate variability and it’s one of the most important factors regulated by the vagus nerve.

So the bigger the difference in your heart rate variability (your inhalation heart rate versus your exhalation heart rate), the higher your vagal tone.

Generally speaking, most people between 20 and 25 years old have a HRV between 55 and 105 milliseconds, while a majority of people 60 to 65 years old mostly range between 25 to 45 milliseconds.

Yours may be higher or lower depending on factors like stress, fitness level, lifestyle, environment, and genetics. Your doctor can tell you what is an ideal range based on your age and medical history.

Another way to check your HRV at home is to buy a heart monitor (Polar or Wahoo are reasonably priced and reputable brands) and download the free mobile app, Elite HRV.

Keep in mind, these technologies are still relatively new and only intended for personal use. Your results should never act as a replacement for personal medical advice. However, the heart monitors can provide a more accurate picture of your HRV than calculating your heart rate yourself.

Five Easy Ways to Improve Your Vagal Tone

The good news is, if you do have a “low” vagal tone, there are some very easy ways to immediately boost it. And, in turn, improving your vagal tone can improve your resilience to stress and restore balance throughout your entire body.

  1. Breathe slow and deep. Deep breathing involving your diaphragm—rather than shallow breaths—helps activate the vagus nerve and strengthen vagal tone. To feel this effect, inhale for about six seconds, then exhale for about twice as long. Repeat for two minutes.

  2. Balance your gut microbiome (GI tract) with a high-quality probiotic. Studies have shown that healthy probiotic bacteria improve brain function by communicating with the vagus nerve. The healthier the gut, the stronger your body’s communication pathways—which are especially helpful in times of stress.

  3. Wash your face or shower with cold water. This ancient Chinese remedy has been shown to stimulate the vagus nerve and lower your sympathetic response.

  4. Connect with loved ones. Laughing, hugging, and smiling release our feel-good chemicals (oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin). These relieve stress and strengthen the activation of your parasympathetic response.

  5. Stimulate vagus nerve with sound. Sound based vagal nerve exercises activate the vagus nerve, in addition to increasing heart rate variability and vagal tone. I show you exactly how in this free lesson.

Remember, strengthening your vagal tone is not just a “one and done” activity—nor is it necessary to carve an extra hour out of your day to do this.

Simply aim to integrate a few of the suggestions above throughout your day, and you’ll strengthen your vagal tone with very little “extra” effort.

So far we’ve discussed the basics of how you can use sound to help your body to be in its optimal healing state by reducing chronic stress. 

We’ve also gained more understanding about stimulating the vagus nerve with sound and how that can be a path to boosting your resilience to stress through daily vagal tone strengthening.

Now I want to teach you a few of my favorite “active” sound healing techniques.

These are the same ones I used to rehabilitate myself after my own severe illness and that I continue to use daily.

Key Vagal Tone Takeaways

  1. Your vagal tone is a measure of the amount of information flowing from the brainstem area to your heart —helping to regulate it. 
  2. Typically, the higher your vagal tone, the better your body is at reaching that ideal resting state.
  3. If you do have a “low” vagal tone, there are some very easy ways to immediately boost it — including sound based vagus nerve stimulation.


How Sound Healing Can Generate A Full Supply "Happy Hormones"I want you to take a moment to think about things that make you happy.

I’m sure the people in your life, pleasant experiences you’ve enjoyed, your achievements, and your passions come to mind. 

But when you get down to it, happiness is essentially a chemical experience… 

You’ve probably heard of “feel good” chemicals—the chemicals naturally generated by your brain, and the main ingredients in your recipe for happiness. 

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could have these happiness chemicals at-the-ready whenever you wanted?

Well, you’re in luck. Because you can!

And it might surprise you to know that you can do this simply with sound healing exercises.

How sound healing summons “feel good” chemicals

More specifically, feel good chemicals are unlocked when the vibrations from your own voice stimulate your vagus nerve—your body’s largest cranial nerve, spanning from the bottom of your brain stem, through your body, to the abdomen. 

(Self-created sounds such as humming and singing are natural vagal nerve exercises. More on that in just a moment.)

And when this nerve is affected with sound vibration, it sends a message to your brain to activate the release of your “feel good” chemicals, including:

  • Acetylcholine: your body’s most abundant neurotransmitter that serves as a natural tranquilizer and inflammation suppressant. It also regulates our arousal response.
  • Dopamine: a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers.
  • Endorphins: chemicals produced naturally in the body to cope with pain or stress. These neuropeptides are known for their morphine-like euphoric effect.
  • Nitric oxide: known for its anti-inflammatory effect and its ability to relax the inner muscles of the blood vessels, causing them to widen and increase circulation.
  • Oxytocin: a social bonding hormone known for creating a feeling of well-being.

All you need is “Hum”

Let’s take a look at some research that demonstrates the benefits of actively conjuring these brain chemicals—and exactly how you can do it, too. 

In 2016, a study on sound was performed at the Institute of Medical Sciences in Kerala, India.

The researchers wanted to find out if sound could help older women with diagnosed hypertension treat their depression and anxiety.

The study included a total of 40 women (with ages ranging from 50 to 60 years old) whose baseline values for systolic and diastolic blood pressure, pulse rate, depression, anxiety, and stress were measured.

The participants were then split into two groups: one was exposed to sound and the other was not.

Over a duration of six months, the sound group gathered once a day to participate in “Om” chant—a popular mantra traditionally performed throughout India and many other Asian cultures.

If you’ve ever taken a yoga class, this mantra is typically chanted at the beginning and end of a session.

I’ll tell you exactly how to do this chant in just a moment.

At the conclusion of the study, the research team discovered that the group who used sound saw a significant decrease in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, pulse rate, depression, anxiety, and stress as compared with the group who did not use sound.

These results can all be attributed to the fact that, as I mentioned earlier, repetitive chanting stimulates your vagus nerve, which in turn releases your brain’s stores of acetylcholine, dopamine, endorphins, nitric oxide, and oxytocin—all chemicals that help regulate your emotional response and balance out specific bodily functions.

The good news here is that these “feel good” chemicals are natural and good for you… unlike some of the other chemicals you might turn to when you’re stressed out or depressed—like alcohol, nicotine, junk food, or sugar.

The no-fuss technique for turning on your “happiness switch”

Conjuring these brain chemicals is easy, free, and can be done just about anywhere you go.

Try this simple sound based vagal nerve exercise used in the study:

  1. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath and then exhale.
  2. For the next few seconds, take a mental inventory of how you feel in your mind and body. (Ask yourself questions like: Am I feeling stressed? Am I exhausted? Am I feeling any tension? If so, where?)
  3. Place your palms over your heart, so that you can feel the vibration you’re about to create.
  4. Take another deep breath inward and gently exhale the long sound of the sound of the word “Hummm” for the full exhalation.
  5. Repeat four to eight times. (You can always do more or less if you’d like!)
  6. Sit for a few seconds and take note of how relaxed and calm your mind and body now feel.

I use short exercises like this throughout my day as natural self-maintenance—especially if I need to clear my mind and get focused on the task at hand.

I’ll also do this exercise if I’ve encountered a challenging, frustrating, or overwhelming situation.

Personally, this exercise helps me “reset” my mindset to prevent my mood from heading in the wrong direction and affecting those around me.

If you enjoyed the exercise you just did you're going to LOVE what I’m going to show you in the next chapter. 

It’s a full body sound healing sequence and there’s really nothing quite like it !

Key Happiness Hormone Takeaways

  1.  Feel good chemicals are created in the body when the vibrations from your own voice stimulate your vagus nerve.
  2. Research has shown that participants practicing a chanting based “vocal vagus nerve” stimulation showed significant decrease in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, pulse rate, depression, anxiety, and stress.
  3. Stimulating your vagus nerve with sound , releases your brain’s stores of acetylcholine, dopamine, endorphins, nitric oxide, and oxytocin—all chemicals that help regulate your emotional response and balance out specific bodily functions.

Discover The Full Body Sound Healing Sequence For Yourself










If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! You’re well on your way to giving yourself a better chance to feel better every day!

Before you go, I want to guide you through one of my all-time favorite methods: The Full Body Sound Healing Sequence.

This sound therapy method is one of the most powerful techniques I know.

 In this vagal nerve exercise, you’ll explore exactly how to direct each sound into various parts in your body.  

If you're ready, click here to watch the full tutorial.

You'll see the the video at the top of the page. The full technique takes about 9 minutes, but I promise, it'll be worth your time.

When you're finished, you'll have an opportunity to get my most popular bundle sound based vagal nerve exercises and guided audio called Sound Solution.

These sound healing exercises can:

  • Help your body be in it's optimal state for healing and rejuvenation
  • Become profoundly calm and relaxed
  • Experience mental clarity
  • Lift your mood
  • Reduce and eliminate anxiety
  • Build brain health
  • Boost heart health and lower blood pressure
  • Get deeper more restful sleep...

It's kind of like having your very own medicine cabinet filled with sound "supplements".

And that just the beginning!

Simply click here to get started.

But don't just take it from me, hear what members of the Donovan Sound Healing Circle are saying. 

"I am super thankful for finding Jim. I’ve read multiple books on the health of the vagus nerve, all because I had a freak accident where a piece of glass got stuck in my throat, and certain signs pointed to vagal nerve issues as a result of the accident. But nothing I read was of much use to me...until I found Jim’s programs. Mr. Donovan is down to Earth with his simple approach to improving vagal tone and his one test for weak vagal tone showed I indeed have issues. Now, I am using his audios every day and loving it. I feel more centered and have a strong feeling that by continuing his approach, I will heal from my accident!" -Melinda R.

"I’d recommend his products to anyone feeling sluggish, mentally foggy, plagued with aches and pains; anyone looking for an overall health reset."  Jaime V. 

"I recently purchased Jim's " Sound Solution" CD program and I can honestly say that I feel better than I have in DECADES! The principals Jim teaches make perfect sense. The exercises that he teaches are not only easy to do, but, unlike a lot of courses we see today, his produce results. As I said, I am just getting started and I can't wait to see what the future holds. Thank you, Jim! " Carlo B.

"I like Jim Donovan's Sound Healing techniques: It's simple, easy to learn and inexpensive.  It consists of using one's own voice to enhance immunity, relieve pain, reduce anxiety and promote well being.  Anyone can hum - even me!" -Jean M.

"I'm completely new to this system, but I can already feel a difference in my body in a very short period of time!  I'm very excited about exploring this unique and innovative system so I can further reap the benefits!" -Ed M.  

"I really like the Resorting Your Vagus Nerve 2 meditation. I listen to it almost on a daily basis. I highly recommend all of guided audio that Jim has. I feel what Jim teaches parallels or compliments what I've been studying in meditation and quantum physics." -Jason B. 

"I’ve attended a number of Jim’s workshops. He is an excellent and inclusive teacher, giving real-life value to the information he shares. Each workshop has gifted me with wisdom, wonder, connection, and the joy of being a small part of something huge. In today’s world of fear and the illusion of separation from each other, we need more Jim! " -Michelle K. 

"He brings you back to the basics and addresses areas of the body and mind with healing techniques not thought of for decades! " -Brian W.

"I’ve attended a number of Jim’s workshops and each time come away a better person. He encourages each person to be the next best version of themselves and then gives ways to make that happen.  Jim’s workshops have become something I look forward to so that I can refresh, renew." -Pat B

"Jim Donovan is an amazing teacher and his concepts around healing with sound are clearly explained and easy to follow.  I use his Sound Solution to promote relaxation and to improve my health by stimulating my vagus nerve." Mary C. 

"I've been using the technique for about a week now...maybe 1 1/2 weeks and my blood pressure is at 106/65 after doing the technique down from 144/83 or 156/82. Thank you very much! " Lydia K. 

"Get the program and DO it! I've been on it just 2 days and already I am seeing results- reduction of bodily pain." -Merle V.

Maybe the next testimonial I get will be from you?

There’s little that would make me happier!

You can get started right now risk-free. Simply click here.

Recommended Reading

Introduction to Healing with Sound: A Comprehensive Guide Discover the power of healing with sound! This comprehensive guide teaches you how to effectively use sound therapy to restore balance and health.

Healing the Body with Frequencies: The Basics Explained
Discover the secrets of healing your body with frequencies! This guide covers the basics of frequency healing and how to use it for better health and wellness.

Benefits of Vagus Nerve Exercises & 7 Simple Practices
Harness the power of the Vagus Nerve to improve health and wellbeing in a few simple steps! Discover what exercises you need to do, and why they are important.

Vagus Nerve Exercises for Stress and Anxiety Relief
Vagus Nerve exercises have been shown to ease stress and anxiety. Discover what the vagus nerve does, the latest research, and eight free vagus nerve exercises.

Music Healing for Stress, Anxiety and Pain
Music has been used as an effective tool to help people cope with anxiety, pain, stress, and more. Discover research and 7 tips for how music healing works.

Stimulating the Vagus Nerve for Better Sleep, Stress Relief & Health
The vagus nerve has been shown to be effective in treating insomnia, stress relief, anxiety, and mood. Learn 12 easy exercises for stimulation of vagus nerve.

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Copyright © 2024 by Blue Beat Media. Thank you for your interest in Jim Donovan / Jim Donovan Music. We do not allow republication of our full newsletters and articles. However, you can post a portion (no more than 90 words, 1-2 paragraphs) of our content with a live link back to our homepage,, or a link to the specific article you are quoting from.

About the author:

Jim Donovan M.Ed. is a multi-platinum musician, educator and TEDx speaker.

His mission is to share the restorative power of music through education and performance.

Donovan is an Assistant Professor and Director of Music and Wellness at Saint Francis University.

His viral TEDx Talk "How to Trick Your Brain Into Falling Asleep" has been viewed over 6 million times to date.

He currently performs with his band The Sun King Warriors who can best described as as a blend of rhythm heavy roots rock, with a strong dose of big barreling drums. 

Jim Donovan got his start as a founding member of the multi-platinum selling band Rusted Root. 

There he co-wrote the song “Send Me on My Way” featured in the movies "Ice Age", "Matilda" and the Netflix series "New Girl".

During his time with the band 1990-2005, he recorded and released seven full length albums. Including "When I Woke" (3x platinum).

He also had the honor of sharing the stage with many of his musical influences and heroes including Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin (1995 US/UK tour), Carlos Santana (1997/2002 US tour), The Allman Brothers Band (1995/96 US tour), The Grateful Dead (1995 Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, PA) and many others.

Send Me On My Way also became the first song on Mars where it “woke up” NASA’s Mars Rover.



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