Music Can Be An Effective Tool to Reduce Stress and Improve Your Health

If you flip music on your car radio or smartphone as you head to work, you may notice a boost to your mood, but did you know music can also reduce stress?  The complexities of modern life have significantly ratcheted up stress in the average person. With ongoing stress can come a multitude of physical and emotional symptoms:  high blood pressure, headaches, fatigue, muscle tension, stomach issues, sleeplessness, lowered immunity, obesity, lack of motivation and focus, depression, anxiety, and more.  If you are experiencing any of these symptoms of ill-health, you aren’t at your best at work or at home. Luckily, you have the power to combat the stress that is compromising your health simply by selecting music strategically and playing it at opportune times throughout your day.  You don’t have to add anything new to your schedule. Just play DJ, because music can be an effective tool to reduce stress and improve your health.

Match the tunes to the purpose

Music can activate the body’s relaxation response, but you’ll have to select your music carefully. As you might imagine, different genres of music bring about different effects.  A favorite dance tune can boost your mood and make it impossible not to break into dance (even if it’s only chair dancing). On the contrary, hear a peaceful instrumental and you might feel your breathing slow and think you might actually sleep well tonight.  So, as you’re strategically selecting your music, think, “What am I trying to accomplish?” Calm? Energy? Release? Motivation? Let that question guide you. Very Well Mind suggests these key times during the day when music can reduce your stress, improve energy, and calm your mind.

Morning mojo music

Maybe you are the type to bound out of bed, ready to meet the challenges of the day.  If so, you might find upbeat music a good fit to get you energized. However, if you are slower to wake up and need calm as you move through your morning routine, a quiet classical or new age music might be better.

Music for drive time

The morning commute can be a true stress inducer for many.  If so, quiet music could alleviate the tendency to succumb to road rage.  You’ll arrive at work calmer and more centered, ready to work. If you’re lucky enough not to have a difficult commute, then this can be musical “me time”.  Maybe more upbeat pop, country, or music with positive affirming lyrics is your thing to get energized and confident for the day.

Lunch break jams

If you’ve had a rough morning, music with positive lyrics might boost your spirit and get you ready for the afternoon. Upbeat music can help you rejuvenate and gain energy, refocus, and blow off stress that may have accumulated during the first half of your work day.   Better yet, if you have green space nearby, take your lunch time tunes mobile to capture a double benefit of music and nature as stress reducers.

Exercise time tunes

Super charge your workout with upbeat pop, rock, dance music, rap, salsa, etc. Whatever music motivates you is the right music for exercise.  Your “right music” can encourage you to get the most out of your workout and reap the benefits of exercise, both physically and mentally.

Cooking time/meal time music

Maybe meal prep at the end of a long day makes you want to curl up and call for delivery.  Not so fast. Eating healthy is also a key component to good health and combatting stress. And, it’s much easier to eat healthy if you’re cooking at home. To re-charge your batteries before diving into chef mode, select music that puts you in your happy place to inspire you to get cooking, and actually enjoy doing it.  However, when it’s time to eat, it’s time for mellow selections. Calm instrumental, smooth jazz might be your thing. However, research has found that classical music is especially effective at helping you relax, better digest your food, and even eat less. So, if you never thought classical music was your groove, open your mind.  There are many different types of classical music under that umbrella term. You might be surprised to find out you like classical music after all.

Cleaning music

Unless you’re one of “those people” who gets jazzed about cleaning, you’d probably rather not.  However, create a cleaning playlist of your absolutely favorite rhythmic tunes, and the time will fly.  EDM, show tunes, country—whatever gets you in motion. Plus, you can manage the stress of the dreaded task by setting a goal to only clean for X number of songs, so it doesn’t feel so overwhelming.

Preparing to sleep melodies

Good sleep (quality and quantity) are critical for stress control and both physical and mental health.  So, finding restful music to best prepare you to drift off is time well spent. Some people use white noise machines that make nature sounds.  However, a research study found that when volunteers were exposed to relaxing music vs. sounds of rippling waters following a stressor, the body actually moved towards a relaxation response faster with the relaxing music.

You’ll note that work time music didn’t appear on the list.  This is intentional. Music can be an inhibiting distractor at these times, especially when you need to think critically, process complex information or solve difficult problems.  

Technology is a tool to reduce stress as well as music

Of course, updating your playlists to include musical interludes for your day is now an obvious use of technology.  And, there are certainly meditation and mindfulness apps out there as well. But, why not use technology to try to get at the root cause and diminish the amount of stress you are feeling in the first place?  We often experience stress when our lives are disorganized. Are you often on the brink of chaos, afraid of which ball is going to drop next? If so,  iStratus DayPlanner app for iPhones is a critical tool to aid in your stress reduction.  Have multiple calendars to sync? Check. Have tasks to schedule at uneven intervals?  Check. Need to secure sensitive documents and access them on the go? Check. Would linking documents directly to that appointment on your calendar save you time?  Check. The DayPlanner is for you.  By finding and using strategies to streamline the connectivity of your work/home life, you can chip away at the tension that has seemed inevitable.  For a little money, time and forethought, you can use music and technology to take control of your stress.

Ann Brennanmusic, reduce stress