Have you ever thought about the affect music can have on you? Generally speaking, if a person puts on a track, their mood might change depending on the kind of song. When listening to fast songs, they become alert and more focused. With upbeat songs, they feel optimistic or positive. And with slow songs, they might relax and feel soothed.
But music affects us much more than simply changing our moods. We’ve written in the past about some of the effects music has on the brain, and today we’ll dive a little deeper into that topic—more specifically on how music reduces stress.
1. Does Music Actually Reduce Stress?
Of course, music is not going to knock out stress completely. But simple tests have shown that it definitely helps in lowering and controlling the level of stress. How can this be?
When a person feels threatened, their nervous system releases stress hormones, two of which are adrenaline and cortisol. This is called the stress response. Chronic stress happens when a person experiences the stress response over a long period of time.
That’s where music comes in. Listening – or even better – playing music often helps the recovery to happen much faster than it would without music. The stress response starts switching to “off” when someone plays or listens to music.
Because of this, music has been known to help:
- Reduce anxiety in hospital patients before entering surgery.
- Bring security and order to distressed or disabled children.
- Lower anxiety and sensation of chronic or postoperative pain.
- Relieve depression and improve self-confidence.
- Reduce emotional distress.
2. How to Reduce Stress
The thing to remember when using music to lower stress is this: make it recreational. Do not place the priority on the actual music – it’s okay if you hit a few wrong keys now and then. The point is to relax, not play as if you are Mozart.
Start with the Piano. If you don’t already know how to play an instrument, using the piano will help you the most. Since the instrument is easy to figure out and doesn’t require difficult fingering or technique, it won’t add the pressure of having to learn a new instrument. You don’t even have to know a song – just press some keys around and have fun!
- Play by Ear. This is not about technique. It’s not even about sounding good. You aren’t performing in front of a giant crowd; you don’t need to worry about reading the notes or making it sound perfect. Take a deep breath, and if it sounds horrible, you’re still doing it right. Simply hearing the sounds and figuring out where you want your fingers to go will help reduce stress.
- Make it a Habit. The more you play, the better effect it will have. The suggested amount of time is about an hour per week, but even playing around once a day is widely beneficial. Some great ways to implement music into your everyday routine include:
- Wake up with music. Set an alarm with a calming classical song. Rather than waking up with the panic an alarm clock can cause, a classical song will help you start your day peacefully.
- Listen on the go. In the car, on a run or simply doing chores around the house, turn on the radio or iPod to start jamming. Be sure to sing with it and have a blast!
- Play or listen in your free time. If you get a break at work, go somewhere to practice an instrument away from the work atmosphere. If you can’t do that, just listen to a few songs on your iPod.
- Take up a musical hobby. This doesn’t even mean learning to play an instrument. This could include Zumba, dance (of any kind) or musical theatre – the options are endless!
3. In Conclusion
If you or your child deals with stress on a daily basis, you may want to look into incorporating music into your lives. You never know – they (or you) might find a new passion they didn’t know existed!