Overcoming Stress With Music & Sound
Stress is a constant factor in our lives at just about every level. How we deal with stress is an indication of how happy and healthy we are. Since the month of April is National Stress Awareness Month, it’s a great time to look at how we can mitigate the stresses in our lives no matter how great or small they are. For over three decades, my husband, Dean Evenson, and I have been studying the effects of music on healing, relaxation and alleviating stress. It’s been a fun and rewarding journey of discovery, and to celebrate National Stress Awareness Month, I am happy to share some of our findings here with you.
Music Soothes the Savage Beast
Music on its own can help center and calm us. We may use high-energy rhythmic music with a beat to get us moving and dancing such as SPA RHYTHMS. Shaking our bootie and releasing pent up energy can be very effective and help in letting go of stress. Then there is the slow paced, soothing music that calms us down, and helps entrain our bodily systems to a more peaceful, balanced state such as MEDITATION MOODS. Of the many tools that help us deal with stress, music can be a complement to all of them. Mind-body modalities such as yoga, meditation, toning, mantra, chanting (SACRED WORLD CHANTS), guided imagery (MEDITATION MOMENT), and visualization are all enhanced by the presence of relevant music.
Making Your Own Music
Music can be enjoyed and effective in either live or recorded forms and it is especially beneficial when self-created. By that, I mean you are creating the music yourself, either with instruments or with your voice. Now many of you may say ‘Oh, I can’t sing, I don’t play an instrument.’ But everybody has a voice and everyone can tap two sticks together and beat out a rhythm. Singing in the shower or in the car can actually release endorphins in your brain that elevate your spirit and make you happy. Singing can literally change your emotional state.
Remember the song – ‘Whenever I feel afraid…I whistle a happy tune and no one ever knows I’m afraid.’ Try singing while driving down the road alone in your car. Go for a walk in nature. Sing a song that lifts your heart. Make up a song expressing how you feel. It doesn’t matter what it sounds like. Let it out. Make long tones of ah or oh and push the sound out with your breath. That is a process called toning and it is very relaxing and beneficial to one’s being.
This may sound like summer camp, but when I am really stressed, sometimes putting on a great music recording (SOUNDINGS GLOBAL RHYTHMS COLLECTION) and dancing around the room can release the energies of stress that may have been eating away at me. Anything that gets you breathing is going to help alleviate your stress. Conscious breathing exercises are one thing, but dancing and moving and huffing and puffing may be more fun and can accomplish the same thing.
Here’s something we learned when we were researching for our presentations on music and healing at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. A certain retired Air Force Colonel was working for the Pentagon doing workshops with military families who were experiencing the stress of multiple deployments or losses in combat. He taught them to laugh. He had them laugh when they didn’t even feel like laughing. Somehow the physical action of laughing was able to stimulate them to actually start feeling good again. Laughter was a tool to lift their spirits. So too, singing and music can be tools to lift our spirits and change our emotional state from stressed to stress free!
by Dudley Evenson, Soundings Co-founder