Music is a proven mood changer and stress reliever and works on many levels at once. Listening to music is a perfect way to alleviate stress, but everyone has different tastes in music, so you should listen to something that makes you feel relaxed. Sitting down and forcing yourself to listen to music will not help – this will intensify the stress – so ensure you’ve picked a music selection that you feel comfortable with. It may even be that you can create the music yourself either by playing an instrument or singing.
The first stress-fighting changes that appear when we hear a melody is an increase in deep breathing. As a result our body’s production of serotonin also accelerates.
Music in the background at work has been found to reduce the stress of the workplace, and can influence moods of both workers and customers. This is why so many retail places play music while you shop.
Music has been found to decrease heart rates and promote higher body temperature, an indication of the onset of relaxation. Music and relaxation together are much more effective than just relaxation therapy by itself.
Experts suggest that it’s the rhythm within the music which creates the calming effect on us, even though we might not be very conscious of it. They point out when we are a baby in our mother’s womb, we are most likely influenced by the heartbeat of our mother. Later in life we also respond to soothing music, possibly in relation with the safe, relaxing and protective environment created by our mothers.
Extensive research on the quality of music has shown unexpected results. Many of the so-called meditation and relaxation recordings produced EEG patterns similar to hard rock and heavy metal, whereas more primal selections of Celtic, Native American and other music with loud drums or flute were found to be very soothing.
It is not good to play certain types of songs or ballads that remind you of sad times when you are trying to de-stress. Basically you are trying to relax and want to wipe away anxious thoughts, you don’t want to bring back memories that create the opposite effect.
Guidelines to follow when using music to de-stress
Try taking a 20-minute bath. Put relaxing music on, then lie in a relaxing position near the speakers. Alternatively, for a deeper experience try wearing headphones to avoid distraction
Choose music that has a slow rhythm. Music that has a cyclical pattern is found to be very effective for most people.
As you are listening, let the music wash over you, to allow removing the stress from the day. Concentrate on your breathing, letting in deepen, slow and become regular. Focus on the silence between the notes of the music.
However if you need stimulation after a day of work, try faster music. Turn up the volume and dance! It does not matter if you’re good at dancing or not. Move to the beat of the music and do what feels good. You might be shocked at the release you can feel.
Take walks with your favorite music on your iPod or Walkman. Exhale and inhale in the rhythm of the music. This is a great stress reliever by integrating music, imagery and exercise.
Listening to the sound of nature, such as the calm of a deep forest or ocean waves, can also help to reduce stress. Try taking a short walk if your near a quiet patch of woods or seashore. You can also buy a soundtrack of natural music.