stress relief with music

Guest Post by Dr. Sherry Pietrzykoski, Senior Instructor, Counseling and Human Development

Part 5 of a 6 part series on Coping with Stress

This week's science of stress relieving topic is music. I love this quote and bless whoever the unknown person was who penned it. Music can move some people; it does me. It makes me laugh, it makes me cry, it gives me solace, it gives me hope, helps me focus, and helps me relax.

I am listening to music as I write this blog. There was a time before I had the surgery which nicked my vocal chords that I loved to sing. People told me I was quite good at it. Now I content myself to listening and playing the music in my head.

According to Jane Collingwood, “Listening to music can have a tremendously relaxing effect on our minds and bodies, especially slow, quiet classical music. This type of music can have a beneficial effect on our physiological functions, slowing the pulse and heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and decreasing the levels of stress hormones.” ¹

I love every type of music (well not every type of music). I like country music and the stories that are woven into the songs. The heartbreak, humor, and the patriotic lyrics have their time and place. Classical music especially the new classical genre of the Canadian Tenors, Josh Groban, Michael Buble, Sarah McLaughlin, and the Celtic Woman is very relaxing.  If you would rather listen to music with no one singing there is some great free sources available on YouTube – just search “relaxing music playlist”. For sounds of nature YouTube also has great playlists just use the key words “sounds of nature”.

I fall asleep each night to an ocean wave sound track. The sound of the waves lapping against the shore is extremely relaxing to me. As the wave come in, I breathe in deeply.  As the waves go out, I exhale.  It is almost meditative. I am not alone in this, according to Dr. Jeffrey Thompson (2007) “The symphony of sound patterns we experience at this time will be deeply imbedded in our subconscious mind for the rest of our lives - water swishing sounds, arterial pulse sounds and voice sounds. These are our first experiences of ‘Primordial Sounds.’ ² I guess I find these back to the womb sounds relaxing and comforting.

Maybe there is something to be said about this science stuff. So, what do you think? Can music soothe the savage beast?

¹ Collingwood, J. (2014, November 17). The power of music to reduce stress

² Thompson, H. (2007). The Clinical Use of Sound . Center for Neuroacoustic Research

Image credit - "Music on the Go" by Garry Knight is licensed under Creative Commons Legal Code