Music can be used for many purposes. Here I want to address using music for stress relief. Apparently, certain tunes resonate with various mechanisms in our bodies. It is a shame not to use them. More reading here, here, here, here, and here.
During speedreading, there is often a high effort associated with vision, especially saccading and peripheral vision. From being focused in front of a screen eyes may begin to hurt. Then it is a good idea to close the eyes or focus on infinity, take a glass of tea or coffee, and listen to good music for five or ten minutes.
After especially tense days at work, we can listen to the car radio or lie down in our bed and enjoy some more music. Maybe even an hour of music. Possibly massaging the body while lying down. The goal is stress reduction and healing. It is fun, of a more quiet and gentle kind…
Immediately after reading
Since immediately after reading we need to process what we just read, it makes no sense to listen to anything complex. The sounds of nature will do the trick. The sorts of sounds you might hear in a meadow on a warm day, such as slightly moving leaves and water and calm bird calls, have desirable effects on stress and wellbeing. Do not put the sound of strong winds as they get people stressed. Also do not put whale songs as they make people sleepy.
We can do this indoor, especially when we seat near a window. Research has also directly linked hearing soothing nature sounds to enhanced cognitive performance.
Now, not everybody likes to put headphones for simple sounds. The boost itself is measurable but not very strong. However, think of an added value: if you have noise-canceling headphones you will make the daily office sounds disappear.
When we write we often think too much. The piece we wrote is finished, yet our brain is full of chaotic ideas. The main purpose of music in this situation is focusing and grounding. This can be done using some music of 60 bpm with a simple melodic line, possibly even pop music. Simple upbeat rhythms of country and folk tend to help reduce the brain clutter.
Our natural tendency is to listen to the music that resonates with our current state. Instead, I suggest listening to sounds that resonate with the desired state.
Driving is one of the most boring activities, so we want to listen to some of the most complex musical pieces to stay engaged. This is the best time for your classical music, progressive rock, and freestyle jazz.
Some people love to put heavy metal when driving, but this can induce aggressive driving and irresponsible behavior.
If the sadness, rage, and anger become hard to control, heavy metal may help process them into more mature responses. This has been proven in medical studies. I do not recommend driving while processing these emotions, as I do not recommend processing them before sleep.
Humming, making vocal noises that resonate with what we feel, has a strong soothing and pain-reducing effect. Vocal toning is a natural form of expression that occurs whether we are aware of it or not. A sigh of relief or the sound you make when you stub your toe are forms of vocal toning,
We can combine vocal toning with mantras, counting, or breathing exercise.
Deep basses and guitar with sustain tend to resonate in our bodies, especially when playing. These vibrations can tap into our natural rhythms. Entrainment is also called rhythmic synchronization and is an expressive arts approach that can support self-regulation, co-regulation, and shared regulation. This synchronization occurs when the rhythm of one experience actually synchronizes with the rhythm of another. For example, playing guitar or tapping in a rhythm provided by a drum machine results in synchronization.
Thus we can tune ourselves to the rhythm we choose a-priori, increasing or decreasing the rhythm until reaching the desired level of alertness.
Pop is getting negative
We are not as cheerful as previous generations. It is easy to measure negative sentiment in songs, and popular songs get sadder and more hateful. Since people tend to synchronize their self-talk and music they listen to, this is not good.
While it is culturally more relevant to enjoy the latest musical creations, it is psychologically more valid to listen to old songs. We want positive self-talk, and we want music to induce optimism. Why? Because it improves well-being and empiric achievement measurements. Instead, teenagers choose music that validates their negative self-talk.
We cannot be happy all the time. There is a place in music for Mozart and for Mahler. It is psychologically more valid to keep the ration between happy and sad music around 1:4…
Humming a happy melody can be very helpful in some situations, but it can also be quite annoying for the roommates. Your musical inspirations might be outed without your intent. Suddenly a happy and relaxing activity might be blocked. Many people sing in the bathroom because they feel they can’t afford to be vulnerable otherwise.
Overcoming some anxiety and social discomfort is harder than it seems. The rewards of happiness and self-regulation are higher than the risks of embarrassment. The idea is slowly increasing the exposure and avoiding toxic people and situations.
Do not hum constantly near your roommate, but feel free to hum not just in a bathroom. Say, hum on a balcony?
Many people do not find a valid way to be heard. Music is definitely a socially accepted way to be loud and vocal. If you perform as a musician you cannot be ignored.
Find the songs that resonate with you and perform a cover. This is really easy. You keep the rhythmic structure and replace the original phrases with something that you want to say. The music and the energies are already in the song. Do not worry about the original words. Most great songs have incredibly good music and lousy words.
Sometimes we do not understand what our subconscious is telling us. Music is definitely a valid way to address this. Feeling music that is synchronized with our inner state, reduces frustration. Analysis of the music and induced thoughts allows the surfacing of the suppressed. Even people who do not know a particular language or who cannot talk due to aphasia can self-express by creating a music list.
Music may facilitate memorization and recall of autobiographical memories from the distant past. Somehow the music track of our lives allows us to empathize with ourselves at a different time.