Music Affects Our Level of Stress
Music is so significant in our lives! It’s not hard to find music nowadays and many of us claim to feel calmed by it. Historians claim that musical instruments were what helped early cavemen bond and create social ties. Now, we have an entire psychiatric school dedicated to the healing power of music called Music Therapy. Dating back to World War II music therapy was first officially acknowledged as a means to lift wounded spirits and doctors would request musicians on a regular basis to help soothe veteran’s mindsets.
There is such a huge correlation between mindset, music, and lower stress levels that they are almost all interchangeable. When I think of calming music, I think meditation or sleep or easy reading session or quiet study time. When I think mindset a vision of a journal or an empowering chat with a friend or counselor comes to my forefront. To be honest, if I did not have the outlet of writing my thoughts down or expressing myself through song, or the luxury of listening to music while I go for my evening jog I don’t know what I would do! There are not many other facets of play that relax me more than physical exercise, music, and meditation. And notice, all three require me to turn my brain off.
But aside from my own lifestyle, let’s look at some of the facts taken from the musictherapy.org website. Therapists are using music to treat learning disabilities, Alzheimer’s disease, and even for physical pain. Suzanne Hanser showed that passive music listening improved the moods for people suffering from depression – participants reported that after eight weeks following a music listening program, their anxiety had been lifted and their self-esteem had been enhanced. Women in labor also reported that their levels of relaxation increased between contractions when they had calm music to focus on. Hanser’s study also reported that cancer patients felt energized and relaxed by creating and composing music helped them deal with the pain of their condition.
Music uses rhythm, build-up and time in its structure to create a sense of the unknown. It triggers the motivation and reward structures in the brain. So when a song flows in a way that we would expect or like it to, it feels pleasurable to us. Hence, why one would say, “Hey, I know this song!” and get a big grin on their face. Generally listening to happy music makes happy things seem happier and the same goes for sad music making things seem sadder.
What I find most unique working with students ages 5-14 are the many types of responses they give from the same exact song. Not everyone feels intelligent when listening to classical music and not everyone feels angry when listening to heavy metal. It is the music teacher or music therapists job to seek personal preference from clients and students regarding their feelings about different genres and lay out a musical plan.
My brother is one of the best heavy metal singers in NJ and as much as I adore him, you would not catch me listening to his genre of music to get relaxed. For him, it is an outlet to listen or sing to in sweet release of any pent up emotions he may be feeling. I also notice that humans tend to gravitate to music that made them feel good at one point or another in their lifetime and most times they know all of the words. For me, a great Backstreet Boys song always brings me back to the wonderful days of pre-teen supreme! And yes, I still know all of the words.
Remember, the pure act of listening to music will not give the full affect of stress release. One must set an intention before listening, sit in a room with no distractions, turn on the creative mind, or apply concentration to the song being played. As wonderful as driving with the music being played can calm us down, listening to the same song while not driving is even more effective to calming stress relief.