Stress – Feelings of emotional tension, overwhelm, or feeling unable to cope — can affect us both mentally as well as physically.
Your body releases hormones and chemicals when you are stressed. This can activate your brain in specific ways. When we’re stressed, our heart rate, blood pressure, and adrenal gland production of cortisol can increase, which is also known as the “stress hormone”.
Cortisol may be helpful in the short term to help us focus and get the energy we need to handle difficult situations. However, prolonged exposure to excessive cortisol can cause persistent, exhausting states such as fight or flight. Chronic stress, whether it is ongoing or chronic, can lead to anxiety disorder and depression.
Music has been a powerful tool for stress relief across time and space. Music, such as ambient and classical, has long been known to have calming effects. However, it is also beneficial to listen to your favorite music from any genre.
A 2020 overview of research into music stress and music suggests that music listening can:
- Lower our heart rate, and cortisol levels
- Enhance our well-being by releasing endorphins
- Distract us and reduce our emotional and physical stress levels
- Reduce stress-related symptoms in clinical settings or daily life
How Music Helps Reduce Stress
Music triggers pleasure
Your brain also benefits from music, which can increase your feel-good chemicals. Ringgold says that music or listening to music triggers the release of dopamine by our brain. This neurotransmitter is associated with motivation and reward. This pleasure response is the brain’s way to say, “Do it again!”
Music can calm your nerves.
Music can calm your nervous system by altering your hormones. Ringgold says that the speed of music can affect your heart rate and blood pressure, as well as your breathing. Ringgold recommends that you listen to slow music (60-80 BPM) when you feel anxious. The slower tempo will calm your body and help you to get out of that high nervous state. He notes that pleasure chemicals are released by the brain and that the body slows down its rhythms. It’s almost like two for one.
Music is an emotional release
Ringgold says that music can be a powerful way to express compressed emotions or energy. This is particularly important if you are in a fight-or-flight state. It can lead to uncomfortably uncomfortable symptoms such as a rapid heartbeat, tight muscles, and sweating. Ringgold explains that stress cannot be expressed through language alone. Making music can help you get rid of those feelings.
Music Grounds You in the Now
Ringgold says that stress can be caused by worrying about the future or ruminating on past events. How can you regain control? He recommends moving to the music.
He explains that the mind prefers situations in which it can have some control. “The only time that this happens is in the present because that’s where our bodies are and we have at least some control over them.”
Music distracts from stressors
Grounding yourself at the moment can help you overcome anxiety about the future or past. However, this might not be as effective if your stress source is in the present. Ringgold says that listening to a playlist can be helpful. He explains that music cognition is complicated for the human brain. It offers an easy distraction from other stress stimuli or diversion. Our brain responds to music as a pleasure signal, so it is happy to concentrate on music signals to the exclusion of any other stimuli.
Why? Ringgold claims music provides a closed-ended escape from the moment. This means that the song or album you are listening to has a clear beginning and end. This is in contrast to social media, which can be stressful and has no limits on the content.
Music fosters creativity
Your nervous system switches from creative mode to reactive mode when you are stressed. This is because your nervous system uses stress to fight or flee a perceived threat. Your nervous system is forced to go back to ” rest and digest” mode when you create music. Ringgold claims this allows for relaxation, clarity, and creativity.
Music facilitates connection
During the pandemic, isolation was a major cause of stress. Ringgold states that music can be a way to combat loneliness-induced anxiety. You can enjoy music with strangers at a concert or you can form a friendship with someone new to create music.
Ringgold states, “When we play music together, we connect with the music.” “When we are playing music together, we connect with them through proxy. One melody, one voice, and one rhythm are all connected at this moment.