Music – A Key Ingredient to Stress Reduction

Yes, that is George Strait and Ronnie Dunn taking a selfie during a live concert.  It was a pretty cool moment so I wanted to share it.  Now to the article…

2014 Cher & Pat Benatar concert

Music is the language we all understand.  Isn’t it cool how no matter our age or nationality, no matter where we’ve been or what we do, we all have some built-in genetic code to like music.  Of course tastes in music vary from person to person, but the interesting thing to me is that I’ve never met a human being who did not have at least some appreciation for music.  The purpose of this article, in a nutshell, is quite simply to encourage you to consider spending more time listening, watching and engaging in musical experiences.  To me, nothing beats a live musical performance.  I love it!

From country to rock ‘n roll to classical, rap and R&B, there is no genre of music that I have come across that I have failed to find some interest and enjoyment in.  In general, relatively positive music is what I appreciate the most, but no matter what is playing, there is almost always something for all of us.  I try to really go outside of my comfort zone and attend concerts or give an artist a shot at winning me over even if I don’t think it’ll be a great experience.  I’ve included a photo of myself at one of those artist’s concerts in this article and I have to say – I was blown away by how good the concert was!  So, aside from the momentary enjoyment of a good cd or concert comes what scientists are learning to be long-term lasting positive effects when humans are regularly exposed to positive music.  One study in older adults looks at three (3) groups of people over a nine (9) month period of time.

2014 Miley Cyrus concert

Groups studied:

  1. a home-based program where participants learned music listening stress reduction techniques at weekly home visits by a music therapist
  2. a self-administered program where participants applied these same techniques with moderate therapist intervention (a weekly telephone call)
  3. a wait list control who had no interaction with a therapist or structured music technique education

I’ll just quote you exactly what they found.  “Participants in both music conditions performed significantly better than the controls on standardized tests of depression, distress, self-esteem, and mood. These improvements were clinically significant and maintained over a 9-month follow-up period (Hanser, S., Thompson, L. 1994).”  This is something of great interest to me personally because I see the effects stress has on people – it kills them!

What we Know

Stress is the major reason for just about every chronic disease and preventable death in the United States.  Just for fun, here’s a cool documentary on stress to help round out this conversation.

Some of My Observations

2014 Kip Moore concert

Now let’s focus on the positive.  Music, positive music, original music, live music – music is amazing and it does the body, mind and spirit a world of good.  I figured this out a number of years ago simply by observing myself and the people around me.  I noticed that people who listened to positive, fun and innovative music and who regularly engaged in attending live music events just seemed happier to me.  I’m not saying this is a fact, it was an observation that peaked my curiosity.  I  have always listened to a lot of music on the radio, but never really made an effort to go to live concerts.  I always thought that I either didn’t have the time or I didn’t care to spend the money to see someone sing who I can hear on the radio.  But, just to experiment, I began going out of my way to attend concerts.  Paid for, free whatever – any kind of decent concert I could find locally, I tried to attend and what I found was that I was surrounding myself with happy people and that made me feel good.  I also developed a much greater appreciation for the artistry of live music and began to enjoy it more and more to the point where I craved it.  Today I probably see 20-30 live music events per year and I can honestly say, this is much better for my peace of mind and stress reduction that just about anything I can think of other than eating whole, natural foods and daily exercise.  Couple these with some quality live music and you’ve got a really good thing going on.

An interesting study by B and Uma Gupta was done in India on college students listening to traditional Indian flute music.

2014 Lady Antebellum & Kacey Musgraves concert

The effects of this music of college students were examined using three physiological (alpha EEG frequency, systolic and diastolic blood pressure and heart rate) and three psychological (depression, state and trait anxiety, and four components of anxiety: somatic, cognitive, behavioral and affective) assessments.  Each of the students listened to instrumental music (no lyrics) for 30 minutes every day for twenty (20) days.  Pre- and post-treatment procedures were used to record physiological and psychological measures for comparison.  The findings showed that the instrumental music led to a significant increase in the alpha EEG frequency (this is a good thing) and a significant decrease in the scores associated with depression, state and trait anxiety, and the four components of anxiety.

So obviously we can go on and on about the positive effects of music on stress reduction but you get the picture and hopefully you get my simple message.  Take time out of your hectic life and busy schedule to stop, breath and enjoy music.  You’ll be glad you did!

Here’s to you my friends.

Live well!

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Hanser S.B., Thompson L.W.  Effects of a music therapy strategy on depressed older adults.J Gerontol. 1994 Nov;49(6): P265-9.

Gupta B., Gupta, U.  Psycho-physiological responsivity to Indian instrumental music. Psychology of Music October 2005 vol. 33 no. 4 363-372

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