Music is therapeutic
Music has an extraordinary ability to enhance our lives in all aspects. At Note-Able Music Therapy Services, we use music as a therapeutic tool to help improve people’s lives. When used intentionally, music can promote relaxation, reduce anxiety, and relieve stress.
NMTS, which includes the Note-Ables performing group, is the only nonprofit music therapy agency in Nevada and is committed to changing the face of disability through the power of music. NMTS serves more than 100 children and adults per week in on-site programs. We serve an additional 500 individuals per year through collaborative programs and workshops. Current services include on-site classes and individualized music therapy, community performances and workshops, and music therapy contracts with Northern Nevada Medical Center, Renown Children’s Hospital, Washoe County School District, and Circle of Life Hospice.
Here are some tips for using music to promote relaxation and reduce stress in your own life.
Music for Relaxation
Our bodies have a natural response to music that involves matching the tempo and frequency of sounds internally. This process is called entrainment. But just because music has a measurable effect on our brains and bodies, it does not mean that one piece of music can be prescribed, like a pill, to promote relaxation for everyone. What promotes relaxation for each of us is specific to our musical preferences.
Here’s an incredible story of how what is thought of as “relaxing” music can actually be harmful. A music therapist in a Utah hospital was working with a teen who was coming out of a coma. She asked the family to bring in music that was meaningful to him, so they brought music from their church. Unfortunately, the music only seemed to agitate him, sending his blood pressure up and his heart racing. The music therapist later asked his sister privately what music he actually liked. The sister said that he loved an intense genre of death metal from Scandinavia — not hymns. Ultimately this was the music he responded to positively and it helped bring him back into the world. The moral of the story? There are no “shoulds” with music!
How to use music for relaxation
As you listen to music throughout your day, pay attention to the effect the music has on your mental state and your body. There is no right or wrong about the music that you most enjoy or brings you into a deeper state of relaxation. Maybe singing along with Taylor Swift is a guilty pleasure. Or maybe you don’t like atmospheric music while you’re getting a massage. It’s up to you!
Once you find some clues about how your emotions and body respond to music, you can start making your own playlists for use in relaxation practices. You can use Pandora to design your own relaxation radio station. Spotify is also a great tool to discover new music and make your own playlists.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a way of relaxing your muscles by first tightening and then releasing them and noticing the contrast. To practice PMR, sit or lie in a comfortable position and breathe deeply. Squeeze one group of muscles (e.g. feet) tightly together for three seconds, then release all tension. Gradually move through the rest of the body, tensing and releasing groups of muscles. Notice how different the body feels after each muscle group has the opportunity to relax.
To enhance PMR, select music that is soothing to you. You may want to select music with a slow, mellow rhythm. Music without words can help you maintain your focus on your breathing and your body. As always, pick a genre and style of music that works for you and helps you focus.
Deep Breathing and Visualization
Breathing deeply while visualizing a soothing scene can be extremely relaxing. Visualizing is most effective when you are able to imagine all of the sensations of an environment, including smells, tastes, sounds, and colors.
Longtime journalist Steve Ranson, editor emeritus of the Lahontan Valley News — a sister publication of the NNBW — has published the 280-page book “Legacies of the Silver State: Nevada Goes to War.”