Music makes us feel good, whether we’re playing an instrument or listening to it. Beyond that, it can also offer us major stress relief, from minor daily stresses to less common high-stress scenarios. One of the major reasons that it can offer so much relief is that we can listen to music while participating in a stressful event or activity, helping us to immediately relax.
You probably like to listen to music while you exercise. The right song or playlist can help to amp you up or keep you focused. But there’s also a lot more at play than just getting you in the zone. Music can also improve athletic performance generally, from amateurs to professional athletes. Music can help you increase muscle control, build muscle memory, and improve and regulate athletes’ moods, which can help them in training or during a match.
As far as muscle control and muscle memory go, choosing songs that mimic the physical exercises you want to perform can greatly develop muscle memory and improve control. The song’s lyrics and beat will more easily connect with your brain, which will help you to better perform physical exercises. A recommendation from PBS NewsHour: Listen to Salt-N-Pepa’s “Push It” when performing any exercises that involve pushing.
Nathan Keith Schrimsher — a modern pentathlon competitor for Team USA in the 2016 Olympics — said that he listened to Skillet’s “One Day Too Late” during his last competition to ease stress and put him in the right mood. On listening to the right song, he said: “It just put me into an attitude to not quit and to give everything I have to make my life matter.”
Relaxing Before Surgeries or Procedures
One study has shown that listening to music may have a positive effect on patients about to have surgery. In fact, patients who listened to music had lower cortisol levels and reported less stress than those who took anti-anxiety medication. This could be beneficial because music is generally less expensive than medication, and doesn’t come with the side effects.
Few things in life involve more pressure than a high-stakes game of poker, especially at the professional level. That’s where music can offer significant stress relief for the players involved — even if it simply involves discussing musical tastes with opponents or listening to a song. But many poker players also find stress relief from playing instruments, too. Maybe that’s why professional poker player Liv Boeree — a 2010 European Poker Tour and a World Series of Poker champion — is such a fan of the electric guitar in her free time. After a long day at the table, there’s no better way to blow off steam than to sit and play for a while.
She’s a fan of heavy metal both at the table and while playing her guitar, because it energizes her in a positive way, which reduces stress. But for Boeree, it’s a little more involved than even that — metal and guitar are also her passions. In 2014 she stated: “If I weren’t playing poker I probably would’ve continued with my guitar and started [or] joined a metal band. I’m glad I went the poker route though!”
Meditation is often recognised as another great way to manage stress, so why not try combining the two? Not all meditation works when you’re listening to music, but some of it does. In particular, music can be compatible with mindfulness meditation. But does it have to be relaxing music? Not necessarily – at least according to meditation trainer Julianna Raye. So if you like meditation, and you like music, it might be worth doing some research into helpful ways to bring the two together.
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