Healthy Living

Music Can Prevent Chronic Stress

Stress is inevitable in life; however, it is less manageable if an individual experiences chronic stress on a daily basis for an extended period of time. Stress triggers a series of reactions that initiate the stress response in cells throughout an individual's body. Commonly, if stress persists for a long period of time, it can cause a chain reaction and result in mood changes, anxiety, anger, and irritability.

Studies have shown that playing a musical instrument can ease or prevent negative emotions from surfacing. Playing an instrument improves the emotional and physical health of an individual. The sound of music can block the genes that produce chemicals that initiate the stress response in cells.

You don't need to be a professional to reap the benefits of music. A more casual approach to music makes for a more relaxing, stress-free experience. Barry Bittman, MD, CEO and medical director of Meadville Medical Center’s Mind-Body Wellness Center, in Meadville, advocates that professional music based on practice, performance, and mastery is a more difficult feat. “But when a person has a recreational intention, it becomes more comfortable without any pressure," he adds. 

Several studies show that music can be used as a vehicle to de-stress. In one specific study, music was shown to reduce the intensity of exhaustion in nursing students and long-term care workers. In a similar study that was conducted, music was found to reduce stress levels, and improve the performance of a group of inner-city, high-risk children. According to Bittman, music is an overall means for good health and well being.

Here are a few tips you should try, even if you've never picked up an instrument before:

  • Choose a very simple instrument – Choose an instrument that does not require too much technique to make a sound. Digital keyboards would be a good option for making some pleasant sounds, by pressing any key you so desire. Even a bang on a tin can or your kid’s xylophone can work wonders.
  • Don’t learn or practice – Just try out new things for fun, you won't be disappointed with the results, and you might learn something. 
  • Enjoy often – Music can definitely make some significant changes in your cells over a period of time. Some studies show that playing an instrument up to an hour every week, for six weeks can lower the stress response.
  • Sing!