How Music Can Help You Deal With Stress

Music has a unique ability to trigger a wide range of emotions. From connecting a parent with his autistic child and fostering closeness with a significant other, to helping a person overcome heartbreak or deal with stress in the workplace, music is a wildly powerful tool that’s benefits, when properly harnessed, are invaluable.

In her new book, Tune In: A Music Therapy Approach to Life, Certified Music Therapist Jennifer Buchanan explores how music can be used intentionally by anyone, at any time, to not only cope with major life events, but to return a person to a place of true happiness. Through a series of personal experiences, her work as a therapist, exercises, and expert advice, Buchanan explains how music can reduce stress.

Unfortunately, stress is a reality for most people — 44% of North Americans feel more stressed than they did even five years ago, with one in five classifying themselves under extreme stress. We all face stress at some point in our lives, and how we deal with it is imperative in whether we will ever actually be stress-free. According to Buchanan, “Music provides the power to ultimately transform your stress, improve your productivity, and restore you to health,” and helps readers understand how music “can boost mood, decrease stress, improve communication, and accomplish a whole host of miraculous and positive changes.”

Music helps our emotional health

Man listening to headphones

Man listening to headphones | iStock

It’s a well-known notion that music invokes a wide array of emotions. Whether you’re reminded of a certain time in your life or you’re trying to escape a harsh reality, music can transport a person to another world, an emotional state that he would otherwise not be in given his current circumstances or situation. Music will not make the cause of someone’s stress disappear, but it can be responsible for temporarily relieving that stress, even if just for a few minutes.

Music can even change a person’s emotional state. According to Buchanan, music can help people focus and distract; connect and celebrate; motivate and relax; evoke memories and enhance new experiences; and tap into our feelings and entertain.

Music can assist in our decision-making process

Man enjoying his music

Man enjoying his music | iStock

While you might initially be thinking that music’s role in important life decisions might be too convoluted, you might also be surprised to hear that neuroscientist Antonio Damasio made some interesting discoveries a few years ago, after he’d conducted a study of people who had sustained damage to the part of the brain where emotions were generated. Of this, Buchanan said, “The field of neuroscience concluded that decision-making is not logical, it’s emotional. Therefore, if you want to change someone’s mind you first need to change their mood. The quickest way I know to change a person’s mood is to add music to the relationship.”

And music can be used as a powerful, individual tool. Every person is different, and every person has individual ways of facing life’s challenges and dealing with emotions. As Billie Holiday once said, “No two people on earth are alike, and it’s got to be that way in music, or it isn’t music.”

How to find your music

Man relaxing while listening to music

Man relaxing while listening to music | iStock

According to Buchanan, the four steps you need to take to find your music are document your life’s soundtrack; determine your current music listening habits; identify your music preferences; establish your anchor songs (an anchor song helps firmly fix us to an emotional state, preparing our psyche and making a moment more meaningful).

“I want you to remember what you’re shooting for: the very best that life has to offer. It is not just about using music intentionally it is about using your life intentionally for good,” Buchanan said.

More from Health & Fitness Cheat Sheet: