The power of music to ease stress and anxiety symptoms
Last week I had the privilege of being invited as a guest to watch the awesome blues artist, Danny Bryant, perform in Cambridge. If you’ve never checked him out you should take a look at some of his stuff right now because his singing and guitar playing are something special.
In fact music can be pretty mesmerising can’t it? There were moments at the concert where I was lost in a sort of music trance while watching the band play and listening to the songs. Some of the time I pretty much lost track of where I was and the other people around me because I was just enjoying watching and listening so much.
And I bet you’ve had those moments where a song comes on and all of a sudden you remember a time from the past linked to that song, perhaps even eliciting an emotional response to the music. Of course, what we often do is listen to the music that reflects our current mood so if we are feeling down we listen to sad songs and if we feel happy we listen to songs that give us a good feeling.
As music can have such strong associations it makes sense to try and utilise the power of music to ease stress and anxiety symptoms doesn’t it?
Easing Stress and Anxiety Symptoms
Interestingly, there has already been some research that suggests that attending live music reduces levels of stress hormones (Fancourt, 2016) and suggests that attending cultural events such as music concerts could have potential psychological benefits for our well-being.
So perhaps it should be no surprise that when I was at the gig I felt nice and relaxed and felt so at ease that I was only focused on the musicians.
And here is a shot of Danny and his band in action (sadly, my phone’s camera was not really up to the job of taking a clear picture!):
The positive impact of music goes much further than this. Instrumental music has been found to lower the heart rate and blood pressure of people with hypertension (Valenti, 2018); it also make us enjoy exercise more (Bigliassi, 2018), can improve cognitive performance (Schellenberg, 2007) and apparently listening to happy music can make us more creative (Ritter & Ferguson, 2017). There’s even research that suggests that listening to music can reduce pain and anxiety after surgery (Meads, 2015). I could go on about the benefits!
I was listening to Danny’s album before going to his concert and like to think that it was boosting my creativity and cognitive functioning as well as making me feel happier! (Or at least I looked happy when I took this photo!)
Because music can have such a powerful impact, I often make use of it when helping people to ease their stress and anxiety symptoms.
For example, during hypnosis I use background music which, I believe, promotes mental calmness and physical relaxation, both of which are very much the opposite of anxiety and stress. We can then use this to invoke our psychological processes to begin to associate feeling calm with being in situations that previously induced anxiety and stress.
There’s lots more that can be achieved though. For example, it there is something that is causing you mild anxiety, try having a think about it while listening to the Mahna Mahna song. Often that can be enough to let go of the anxiety or stress about little stuff.
Or have a go with this: Think of some music which gives you a good feeling and then imagine listening to it loudly in your mind (better still, actually play it loudly) and, when you have that positive and good feeling, then think of whatever was making you feel anxious. Make sure that you get the good feeling strong enough to really make it hard to access that old feeling.
And because music can have such powerful effects and elicit an emotional response, it makes sense to listen to music that makes you feel good more often. For example, if you usually feel anxious in the morning before going out, as soon as you awake put on that positive music and use it to grab your attention and dilute any anxiety. The same applies in the car: rather than hope that the radio plays something you like, or tuning out of the background radio completely, put something on that YOU like. Really engage in it and let that good feeling flow through you (and why not sing along too?).
As I finish writing this I’m chilling out with some Bob Dylan in the background on You Tube (got to love a bit of harmonica; I really must get round to learning to play it). Think I’ll move on to a bit of Booker T & the MG’s next (I’ve left my Danny Bryant CD in the car after the gig!). And with all the positive potential benefits of music for anxiety, stress and more, maybe you can decide how you can reap those benefits and get that happy music (and your happy dance!) going!
To your happiness,
Hypnotherapy Ely, Newmarket, Online
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