We hear constantly about stress and the negative effects it can have on both our emotional and physical health. Studies have shown that stress contributes to heart disease, anxiety, triggers major depressive episodes, and generally erodes the overall quality of our lives. Because stress is such a problem, medical science is constantly looking for simple ways people can reduce stress and feel better.
A recent study performed by the Department of Psychology at the University of South Alabama investigated the effects of music on stress. They compared self-selected relaxing music and classical music with sitting in silence or listening to heavy metal music. They found that listening to self-selected relaxing music or classical music immediately after encountering a stressor significantly reduced the effects of stress, and relaxing music styles had a much more positive effect on stress than sitting in silence or listening to heavy metal music.
This research isn’t necessarily groundbreaking, but it does support the general idea that a little regular, deliberate stress relief goes a long way. Many people have the habit of letting stress build over time with no release until the stress is so great they break down. If something as simple as listening to relaxing music on more stressful days can have a significant effect on overall stress levels, keeping stress levels healthy may be easier than most people think. The key appears to be regularly taking a little time out, rather than letting stress build to unmanageable levels.
Music isn’t the only simple form of regular stress relief. Past studies have also shown that a few minutes of regular stretching can also have a positive, stress-reducing effect. Yoga is another way to reduce stress quickly and easily, and researchers have long touted the benefits of just 20 minutes of exercise daily as a way to alleviate stress. This most recent study is just one more piece of evidence in a growing body of knowledge that supports small steps to increase overall wellness and lifestyle changes.
If classical music isn’t necessarily your style, any form of self-selected relaxing music is a good option. Anything with a slow tempo can be defined as relaxing music. Slow jazz, down-tempo dance music or ambient music are all more relaxing forms of music.