Did you know that your dog just might be a Bob Marley fan?
In a recent study on the effect of music on dogs’ behavior, researchers found that classical, reggae and soft rock had a calming effect on Fido and his friends.
Now I’m not too sure how stressed out your dog is, but chances are you might be a bit.
Or maybe a lot.
The power of music to soothe and calm humans has been known for some time. It may be that it is the specific tempo and repetitive qualities in certain type of music that creates a positive effect. That may be why slow or quiet classical music has long been regarded as the chill out music of choice. Now maybe you can add reggae and soft rock to your playlist.
Music and stress
Studies show that music can slow the heart rate, lower blood pressure and maybe even decrease cortisol levels. Cortisol is one of the hormones released in response to stress. That’s a good thing if you are actually facing a real threat. But when you are constantly under stress, your body also interprets that as a threat and continues to produce cortisol. Too much cortisol is now implicated in many illnesses including heart disease as well as depressing your immune system.
While not conclusive yet, there are some promising studies that suggest that certain types of music may actually decrease the amount of cortisol being produced by diffusing the stress response in your body. It appears that the greatest reduction in cortisol may actually happen when listening to music is an intentional activity undertaken for the purpose of relaxation.
What we do know is that music somehow does have the ability to shift our mood and help us feel more relaxed. Even if it turns out that this is just because we are thinking a little less negatively or intentionally focusing on relaxing activities, the end result is the same. We feel less stressed.
Tips for managing stress
It’s a fascinating area of ongoing study that apparently now also includes your dog. In meantime while researchers continue to learn more, here are 7 ways you can use music in your daily routine to help manage stress.
Give it a try
If the thought of classical music raises your stress level, be open to giving it a try. While it’s important to play music you find pleasant, chances are there is room to expand your classical repertoire. If Bach is not your guy, try Handel, or Beethoven or Debussy. If you find that classical music is not really your thing, see if your dog is on to something and try a little reggae or soft rock. Or maybe give recordings of nature sounds like flowing water a try.
Start the day
Add some music to your morning routine. Try waking up to music rather than an alarm. Take 5 minutes to sit quietly and listen to some quiet or uplifting music before you start preparing for the day. Have music playing in the background to create a calmer atmosphere for you and your family.
Take a pause
Taking mini breaks during your day allows you to pause and give your busy mind a rest. Create a playlist of calming music and then schedule an intentional music break into your day. Simply put on your headphones, sit quietly, breathe and listen.
There are a number of ways that music can be a part of your meditation practice. Chanting, which is the repetition of a mantra, is a popular way to hold your focus in meditation. A mantra is simply a word or phrase that has significance to you. Yoga practitioners are likely familiar with the Sanskrit mantra “shanti” which means peace or the primordial sound “om” which is often used to open and close yoga classes. While there are many recordings of mantras available, its important to choose one that resonates with you. Nature sounds can also provide a calming backdrop for your meditation practice.
For centuries Tibetan singing bowls have been used to help induce a meditative state. The sound and vibration created by the singing bowl has the ability to alter brain waves, elicit the relaxation response in your body and help calm the mind. Singing bowls can be used a gong to begin and end practice session or as the focal point during meditation.
On your commute
If you travel to work each day, your commute can be used to make a positive transition between your home and your job. Imagine what difference it might make if you were singing along with Bob Marley’s One Love or Three Little Birds instead of listening to talk radio or rehashing the list of things that are still on your to-do list. Whether you are driving, walking or taking the bus, use your commute time as a proactive stress reducer.
Substitute for other activities
Look for opportunities to substitute listening to music for other low productivity activities such as watching television, surfing the internet, or paying video games. Often we choose these activities because we think that they are a way to relax. But depending on our choices, they may actually increase our stress or negative thinking. Try replacing one of these activities with sitting quietly and listening to music. Instead of channel surfing, try 15 minutes of music and see what impact you notice.
Sometimes when we get into bed, it’s a challenge to quiet the million thoughts racing through our heads. That makes falling asleep and then having a restful sleep more difficult. Music can be a positive addition to other sleep hygiene habits that help you relax and make the transition to a good night’s sleep.
Using music as part of your daily stress reduction plan is an inexpensive, simple and ready to use tool that can easily be added into your existing routines. Your dog thinks so too.
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How do you use music to help manage your stress?