Music--It is the soundtrack to our lives. You might have driven your first car while the Go-Gos blared on the radio. You may remember singing “Memory” at your high school graduation, or you might have had the organist play “Ode to Joy” at your wedding. You may remember the first time you heard Bruce Springsteen, or the last time you heard Madonna. Whether your musical tastes are contemporary or classical, chances are you do have a favorite form of music. And you also probably have a favorite artist or band.
But, in addition to being enjoyable, music can serve an important function as a stress reliever. It is no surprise that dentists routinely play music in their offices, or that surgeons play it during operations. Bus drivers play music to reduce stress, as do baseball players during their warm-ups.
Musicologists say that music can have a soothing effect, an effect that might have begun when we first heard music while still in our mother’s womb. As a result, music may, in fact, remind us of our mothers, from whom we draw strength and comfort. It has been shown in studies that music where the flute predominates, such as Celtic or Native American music, is often the most comforting. In fact, research indicates that any music performed in person helps to synchronize the right and left brain hemispheres. Music can be especially beneficial to the individuals performing it. It provides a sense of accomplishment which can, in turn, reduce stress.
Music increases the body’s serotonin levels, which are associated with good feelings. Also, music tends to enhance deep breathing, making a person feel more relaxed. Also, background music at work has been shown to cut stress levels. In addition to causing heart rates to decline, music boosts the body’s temperature.
One preferable way to relax is to lie down with a set of headphones and allow the music to wash over you. In this way, you’ll be intimately involved in the music—you’ll feel as if you are part of the music. It is easy to forget the cares of the world when you can escape into music. You should select music that has a slow beat—preferably slower than 72 beats a minute, the standard heart rate. You should focus your attention to the silence that is usually built into musical selections in order to maximize your relaxation. Another popular technique is to use a Walkman while doing your morning walk. This way, you combine the stress-busting effects of music with those of exercise. This provides a one-two punch which is guaranteed to reduce your stress level.
You might also try tuning into nature sounds. Sit in your backyard, close your eyes, and concentrate on the sounds you hear. You’ll be listening to the music of crickets and songbirds, leaves rustling in the wind and wind chimes swaying in the breeze. You can also purchase a CD which offers the sounds of the ocean or the woods. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll be carried away with the sounds. Just ten minutes sitting quietly and listening can put you in an entirely different frame of mind. You’ll find you’re better able to cope with the demands of the day if you’ve spent some time listening to music—whether it’s man-made or made by nature.
It is highly important that you listen to music that appeals to you. If you never liked the Beach Boys, chances are that playing a “Best of the Beach Boys” CD will not calm you down. Furthermore, if you like classical music, but can’t stand Beethoven, limit your listening to Mozart instead. The important thing is that you feel comfortable with your musical selections.
It is hard to imagine a world without music, yet most of us do not take full advantage of the art form. It can be unbelievably effective in reducing stress and improving relaxation. It is no wonder that women have been known to select their favorite music to give birth by. Music elevates our mood; it makes us feel happy and alive. Depending on the amount of stress you’re under, you may end up playing music just in the morning, in the afternoon, or all day. Just remember that music time should be relaxation time.