Who doesn’t like music? Today, however, I am not talking about casual music like what you happen to hear on the car radio on the way to work. I am talking about systematically using music to relax.
By “systematically” I mean several things. First, you set up a schedule of relaxation. You want to plan at least a 20 minute session for the explicit purpose of reducing the cortisol in your system. Your relaxation schedule should include at least daily music sessions or some other type of relaxation. Set up a definite time of day or be aware of when your body and mind need to step back and reduce some cortisol. Second, do something to change your environment, to make your body aware that it is time to relax for a few minutes. That might mean moving to a different room, or lowering the lights or the blinds. Sit down in your favorite comfortable chair and relax your face and shoulder muscles. Third, select the piece(s) of music that you want to use. Take some time before you start to find music that really can transport you into that special state of mind. One of the best ways to judge the best music for you is to see if you stop thinking about whatever you were thinking about before. That is when you know you can take those 20 to 30 minutes to actually reduce your cortisol levels and return to work refreshed. We are always more productive when we are refreshed. You do not have to use the same music all the time. Different days may call for different moods.
So why is music such a good way to relax? There are many answers. Some are technical and based on how the brain and our nervous systems work. But my favorite is so simple and straightforward that it needs to be first.
1.) Music is a great way to relax and reduce stress because it can stop you from thinking. Thinking is the #1 cause of stress. Thinking generally produces cortisol. To reduce the buildup of cortisol, you have to stop thinking. I had a highly anxious patient once tell me that the music I had set up for her didn’t work because she could think “over Beethoven!” So, I worked out a program with her of favorites from the 50’s. We chose songs she knew all the words to and could sing along with. Now, that worked for her.
2.) Music uses almost all the brain areas. That seems to somehow balance our nervous systems.
3.) Music seems to offer a good invitation to breathe. And breathing is the #1 best way to reduce stress and excess cortisol buildup.
4.) Along the same lines as #1, music offers a great opportunity to practice Mindfulness, to just Be in the Moment with nothing on your mind.
I encourage you to set up your schedule and sit back, relax and listen to some good music.