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. NOW is a great time to look at how we can mitigate the stresses in our lives no matter how great or small they are. For more than 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
On its own, Music can help center and calm us. We may use high-energy rhythmic music with a beat (such as Spa Rhythms) to get us moving and dancing. Shaking our bootie and releasing pent up energy can be a very effective stress release. Then there is the slow paced, soothing music that calms us down (such as Spa Dreams), and helps entrain our bodily systems to a more peaceful, balanced state. Of the many tools that help us deal with stress, music complements all of them. Mind-body modalities such as yoga, meditation, toning, mantra, chanting, guided imagery, 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. This is a process called toning and it is incredibly relaxing and beneficial for our whole bodies.
This may sound like summer camp, but when I am really stressed, sometimes putting on great music 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 much-needed tool to lift their spirits.
Singing, Music, Laughter… all tools than can help elevate our mood and change our emotional state from stressed to stress-free. Don’t be afraid to sing out loud, dance with abandon, and laugh til you cry…you’ll be happier!
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