When it comes to using music for stress reduction, it's important to find the right exercises that resonate with you.
For me, personally, I've always found that the key ingredient for the best stress reduction is rooted in music. The ability to experiment with different genres and styles to identify the melodies and rhythms that bring the most comfort... and finding the right words to put to those genres and styles.
Whether you're drawn to soothing classical compositions, meditative ambient sounds, or energetic beats that make you want to dance, it's important for us to tailor our musical choices to our personal preferences for maximum stress-relieving effects.
Here are 10 methods and points we can use when it comes to music aiding us in our journey to reduce stress, anxiety disorders, and feelings of social isolation - especially in a post-Pandemic world.
The Benefits of Relaxation Techniques:
Practicing relaxation techniques can have many benefits, such as:
Optimizing Heart Health: Experience the natural rhythm of your heart slowing down, allowing each beat to pump a more nourishing flow of blood, maintaining a steady and harmonious tempo.
Guarding Against Hypertension: Take a proactive step to reduce your blood pressure, shielding critical organs - like your heart, kidneys, brain, and eyes - from the risks associated with high blood pressure.
Breathing for Calm: Embrace slower breaths that cultivate calmness, aiding in minimizing feelings of depression and anxiety, offering a soothing balm for the mind.
Enhancing Digestive Efficiency: Elevate your digestive prowess, ensuring your body efficiently utilizes nutrients to fuel your energy, growth, and cellular rejuvenation.
Balancing Blood Sugar: Gain mastery over your blood sugar levels, thwarting potential health complications such as heart disease, kidney issues, and vision impairment
Managing Stress Response: Regulate stress hormones, diminishing their impact and mitigating potential long-term health issues like heart disease, high blood pressure, and depression.
Boosting Muscle Vitality: Amplify blood flow to key muscle groups, accelerating recovery after workouts and promoting improved tissue health overall.
Easing Tension and Pain: Bid farewell to persistent muscle tension and chronic pain, embracing a life defined by comfort and well-being.
But here's the clincher: combining relaxation techniques with music further amplifies the stress-reducing benefits. Techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery can be synchronized with calming music to create a synergistic effect.
This combination further enhances relaxation responses, lowers heart rate, and calms the nervous system, helping you achieve a deeper state of tranquility.
Can Music Lower Blood Pressure?
Research suggests that listening to music you enjoy can most definitely have a positive impact on your blood pressure levels. Whether you enjoy Enigma or Eminem, Taylor Swift or Tchaikovsky: the calming effect of music, especially slow-tempo compositions, can help dilate blood vessels and reduce the strain on the heart, contributing to lower blood pressure.
For this reason: you'll often find me working out and meditating whilst listening to music - and yes, my playlist is incredibly broad: Iron Maiden to Wholetones - each genre offering a different benefit to my workout routine.
Can Music Relieve Pain?
The powerful analgesic effects of music have been extensively documented.
During moments of pain, directing your focus toward music can effectively divert your attention from discomfort, leading to the release of endorphins - the body's natural pain relievers. By immersing your mind in melodies and lyrics, music becomes a potent tool in diminishing the perception of pain.
A multitude of studies underscore music's remarkable capacity to significantly reduce pain levels through diverse mechanisms, including the triggering of endorphin release and the balancing of catecholamine [hormones made by the adrenal glands] levels. This pain-relieving attribute of music is driven by its ability to engage both sensory and cognitive pathways, successfully diverting patients' focus AWAY from their discomfort.
Intriguingly, this engagement holds particular effectiveness for individuals grappling with high anxiety levels.
In other words: music has a promising potential for pain relief, as well as helping to significantly minimize symptoms of anxiety disorders.
During my longest stint in hospital as an almost-10year old: my elementary school teacher made me a mixed cassette tape that she titled "Happy, Healthy Music". To this day, I feel that those songs contributed significantly to my ability to navigate those 5 and a half weeks in hospital: recovering from brain surgery, and rather severe brain trauma.
Practicing Visualization with Music:
Amplifying the potency of visualization techniques through the synergy of music is a strategy that yields remarkable results. While visualization might not be a commonplace practice in our daily routines, music can seamlessly serve as a stepping stone towards introducing concepts like meditation or deep breathing exercises.
One captivating approach I often employ, especially when working with elementary and middle school students, involves immersing them in a piece of instrumental music. I encourage them to envision their lives as a cinematic masterpiece, with the selected song serving as the quintessential theme for a specific scene within their unique story.
Their creative task is to delve into their imaginations, conjuring the details of this scene, and subsequently translating their mental imagery into a visual representation on paper. This exercise elegantly intertwines introspection with creativity, bridging the realms of the mind and emotions with the tangible realm of artistic expression.
The outcomes of this exercise are nothing short of profound. Participants not only foster a deeper connection with their inner selves but also establish intricate links between their thoughts, emotions, and their ability to bring forth tangible forms of expression.
Can Music Help You Sleep?
Numerous studies propose that music acts as a sleep enhancer, largely due to its influence on hormone regulation, notably the stress hormone cortisol. High stress levels and elevated cortisol can heighten alertness, resulting in compromised sleep quality. The act of listening to music effectively mitigates this concern by reducing cortisol levels.
The influence of music on the quality of sleep is nothing short of remarkable. Specifically, the incorporation of slow, soothing melodies characterized by a gentle tempo can significantly contribute to this endeavor. These melodies possess the power to initiate a reduction in heart rate and foster a profound sense of relaxation, simplifying the process of falling asleep. By curating a personalized bedtime playlist aligned with your preferences, you effectively communicate to your body that it's time to unwind and prepare for a rejuvenating and peaceful sleep experience.
Music for Sleep Anxiety:
If sleep anxiety hinders your rest, contemplate curating a playlist of serene instrumental tracks. The absence of lyrics provides your mind the opportunity to immerse itself in the gentle melodies, effectively steering your thoughts away from concerns and into a realm of tranquility.
Research highlights music's role in lowering cortisol, a stress hormone. Additionally, music prompts the release of dopamine, fostering positive emotions at bedtime and potentially aiding in pain management. Experiment with falling asleep to music that exudes relaxation, maintaining a pace of around 60 to 80 beats per minute for optimal effect.
Music SPECIFICALLY for Anxiety Disorders:
As I mentioned above: Music, and music therapy has shown promise in managing anxiety disorders. Numerous research studies point towards the efficacy of music therapy in alleviating feelings of anxiety across various scenarios: from individuals grappling with serious illnesses such as cancer through to those undergoing surgery, and even those entering intensive care units. In every case: music therapy has showcased its potential. Furthermore, the rhythm of music seems to synchronize with our bodies, contributing to reduced blood pressure and heart rates. This, in turn, directly affects our perception of stress.
Furthermore, evidence suggests that individuals undergoing music therapy experience a notable decrease in anxiety immediately after the session, suggesting that this approach could provide a swift and convenient means of symptom reduction.
The impact of music goes beyond the surface; it dives into the realm of hormonal regulation. Stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, responsible for anxiety symptoms, are found to be influenced by music, with a decrease in their levels resulting in anxiety relief.
Children, too, benefit significantly from music therapy. It offers them enjoyable avenues to express their thoughts and emotions, while also refining social interaction and communication skills. Creative play flourishes, concentration and coordination sharpen, self-awareness deepens, and an acute awareness of others is nurtured, particularly within group music sessions. As a result, self-esteem and resilience blossom, language and listening skills strengthen, and family bonds grow stronger through the shared experience of music therapy.
Music and Breathing Exercises for Anxiety:
Combining breathing exercises with music creates a powerful tool for managing anxiety. Choose slow, steady music and synchronize your breath with the rhythm. This practice not only calms the mind but also promotes deep diaphragmatic breathing, which activates the body's relaxation response.
I often take my vocal clients through various breathing exercises to help them not only master their breath for singing, but also to help alleviate stress and anxiety - especially when it comes to performing or recording. These breathing exercises include:
Box breathing: inhale for four counts, hold for four counts, exhale for four counts, and hold for four counts.
4-7-8 technique: a relaxation exercise that involves breathing in for four counts, holding that breath for seven counts and exhaling for eight counts.
5-5-8-2 technique: a focused breathing practice in which you count to five as you inhale, hold the breath for five counts, and then exhale for eight counts, before holding for another two counts.
These techniques help to focus the breath, minimize blood pressure, and concentrate on controlling what you can control [your breath].
Integrating music into a spectrum of breathing exercises, spanning from relaxation methods to workout routines, holds remarkable potential for enhancing your mental, emotional, and spiritual equilibrium. Whether you're harnessing music's power to diminish stress, soothe discomfort, or enhance sleep, its therapeutic influence remains unmistakable. Embrace the opportunity to explore various techniques, unlocking the profound ways in which music can stand as a steadfast companion on your path to holistic empowerment and overall well-being.
For Maximum Stress Relief, Add Music and Mindfulness to Your Workout:
Incorporating music and mindfulness into your exercise routine offers a powerful way to manage stress. Whether you're jogging, practicing yoga, or hitting the weights, try syncing your movements with the beat of your chosen music. This blend cultivates a strong mind-body connection, promoting relaxation and adding an extra layer of enjoyment to your workout.
Research conducted by Karageorghis, published in the Journal of Sports Exercise Psychology, sheds light on the practical benefits of using motivating music during exercise. This approach proves especially effective in combating fatigue, allowing you to push through challenging moments. In an article by the American Council on Exercise, Karageorghis explains that music can even boost workout endurance by up to 15 percent. This phenomenon, often referred to as "high-groove music," holds a solid scientific footing, offering a practical tool for enhancing your exercise experience.
Music, Psychology, and Relaxation:
Exploring the psychology behind music reveals a fascinating world. It's remarkable how certain melodies, harmonies, and rhythms can work as emotional triggers, offering a pathway to relaxation and stress reduction. Delving deeper into this connection between music and emotions empowers you to curate playlists that align with your specific emotional requirements, making your musical choices more intentional and impactful.
The tempo and vibe of music can profoundly affect your mental state. Uplifting and faster-paced compositions have the ability to heighten alertness and sharpen concentration, which can be particularly useful during active hours or when you need to focus. On the other hand, selecting melodies with a slower tempo can have a calming effect, allowing your mind to unwind and your muscles to release tension. This gentle rhythm soothes the accumulated stress of the day and provides a moment of tranquility.
In a world where stress is often a constant companion, music emerges as a potent tool for relaxation and stress management. Its ability to influence emotions and create a desired mood makes it a readily accessible and effective technique for unwinding, rejuvenating, and finding moments of calm amidst the chaos of life.
Of course: all of these points are specifically tied to how music benefits us when it comes to stress management, anxiety levels, and health problems. But research is coming out showing that when we add creative expression and communication through the use of songwriting: these benefits only increase.
If you're interested in learning more about how, check out my 2022 TEDx Talk on how music and songwriting saved MY life - especially after having had ten brain surgeries.
And if you're interested in learning more about how you can use the art of music and songwriting to elevate YOUR life, as we continue to navigate the epidemic of stress and anxiety post-pandemic: I'd love to hop on a call with you to tell you more about Empowerment through Songwriting [and singing] and how channeling your stress, anxiety, and trauma through the lens of music might be exactly what you need to get your health and well-being back on track.
When you're ready, simply CLICK HEREto book a call with me.
I can't wait to speak with you soon.
~ Emma G