What Makes Relaxing Music?
By Martin Mayer
Why does music affect our emotions? In our stressful lifestyle, how can we use sounds and music to calm and relax?
Music is the key to a thousand emotions. We associate music with the places we have been, the times we have experienced and the people in our lives. Music is all around us. There is no denying the effectiveness of music, so why not use it to affect our own emotions and enhance our personal environment? Relaxing music, relaxation music, meditation music… call it what you will. There is no question that it can help us to shape our environment effectively and can be changed to suit or influence our mood.
In today’s society, wherever there is radio, television, cinema or the internet, we will be exposed to music. Music is all around us and is a commodity so important that is used by virtually every company on the planet to sell us their products and services. Very often we are completely oblivious to the sounds drifting out of those in-store speakers or the impact and drama of an action-movie soundtrack placed in a car advert. Music is a complex language that can convey any emotion or conjure a response from any audience. At the same time music is simple and universally understandable.
We are used to others using music to influence our emotions and therefore decisions. However, we rarely use music’s benefits to help ourselves. Relaxing music or relaxation music (also known as new age music) can be used to relieve stress, unwind after a hard day at work, promote good sleep or as a focus of concentration during yoga or meditation. As a composer, the idea of music for relaxation has fascinated me. For a long time, I have researched the benefits of music for health and well-being. Music is just a part of relaxation, but can be the key to calm and relax mind and body.
Positive healing effects of music have been suggested since ancient times. In the beliefs of Ancient Greece, Apollo was God of medicine and music. It was believed that music had the power to penetrate the soul. According to Plato, Pythagoras practiced a system of sound and music used to cure disease and encourage spiritual health. The Egyptians also believed in the link between medicine and music. The relationship between sound and healing was held sacred.
I am not a healer and I make no claims of the medicinal power of music. To me, music is a powerful tool which can shape emotion and influence moods in ourselves and others around us. It is a powerful positive force that you can harness to aid relaxation and provide a release from stress. Relaxation techniques often rely on music as a spark. Which technique you use depends on your lifestyle and the time you have to yourself.
A good habit can be built; find a quiet room, put work worries to one side and allow yourself time to unwind – dim the lights, light some candles or incense or whatever you find calming. Close your eyes and focus on the sound of your breath. Take in the same amount of air but breathe slightly longer breaths, less often. Relaxing music is a great focus for an exercise like this or any relaxation technique. Listen to relaxation music at a volume level that is high enough to mask any background noise but not so high as to be overbearing. In a busy workplace or home, headphones are useful.
The music should not be too distracting and should be carefully composed to be easy to listen to. I recommend that you use music that is slow and preferably without a heavy beat. However, it should be interesting and different enough to capture the imagination and become a suitable focus for relief. Nature sounds enhance the experience as they help you to imagine a place of peace, calm, tranquility and serenity. It is best to use music written specifically for relaxation, although you could use any music that you find particularly relaxing. This technique is most useful if it can be practiced for a significant amount of time – more than half an hour. However, it can be effective if used for just a few minutes at break times.
Having said all this, no two people are the same. Relaxation and the way we achieve it is different for every one of us. Whatever music you choose should enable you to escape from the stress of everyday life. It should help you to put your worries aside and recharge; physically and emotionally. Whether this is relaxing, new age music, folk, pop or rock is up to you. The simple act of making time to absorb the music is most important. The music also helps to build a barrier between you and the distractions around you. The music becomes a shield and backdrop for your relaxation.
About this Contributor: Martin Mayer is a media composer and owner of Sounds That Soothe, producing music to calm and relax. His new CD, Silver Streams is available now – instrumental pieces developed to relieve stress and aid the body in relaxation.