7 Effective Stress Management Techniques

Christy Eidson
24 min readNov 19, 2020


“Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me.” ~ Carol Burnett

Stress has become chronic and overwhelming in our daily lives. Since most of us cannot avoid the stress that we are encountering, we must learn to manage it. Many healthcare practitioners and employers are incorporating stress management techniques into their wellness programs. According to the American Institute of Stress, U.S. industry is estimated at a loss of over $300 billion annually as a result of absenteeism, employee turnover, diminished productivity, accidents, medical costs, legal costs, insurance costs, and workers’ compensation. Stress is not only killing us, but it’s also costing us!

There is a light to this tunnel. There are ways that you can incorporate stress-relieving approaches into your daily life. Try one or all of these techniques and make them habitual. All are beneficial to your health and many can be used complementary to your current medical treatments and therapies. But, of course, these should not be used in lieu of professional medical advice and supervision. And always consult with your physician before you start a new diet plan or exercise program.

You can take a few small steps each day to lead a more stress reduced lifestyle. It is easier to make changes in your life if you take small steps instead of overwhelming yourself. Like in the movie What About Bob, you need to take “baby steps” to bring about life changes. The following are methods to incorporate into your life to pursue better physical health, better mental stability, better clarity and focus, better spirituality, and better peace. Your life will be BETTER!

I have an older dog, and when we go for walks, he loves to just sit outside under a tree. If it is a pretty day, we will sit under that tree for about a half an hour or longer. While we sit there, I will sometimes close my eyes and listen to the insects and the birds flying around, smell the air, feel the wind, and enjoy the peace. I will attempt to clear my mind and just enjoy the moment doing nothing but sitting with my dog. He enjoys lying there, looking around. His relaxation rubs off on me. It is a combination of the pinene from the trees that I am breathing in, the taking a break from life for that period of time, and the clearing of my mind and calming of my thoughts. What I just described to you is a combination of forest bathing and meditation with a dash of unplugging from technology.


There are several ways of getting your steps in each day. One way is by simply walking. The average person can burn between 80 to 140 calories per mile walked. The current trend is to try to walk at least 10,000 steps per day to maintain your health. Surprisingly, most people, unless they have an active lifestyle, do not get the needed number of steps per day. The average person takes 2,000 steps for every mile, so if you walk 10,000 steps, you will have walked about five miles. There are several devices on the market now to help you calculate and keep track of your steps. Some of them will even help you track your sleep patterns and heart rate. If you walk 10,000 steps in a day, you will burn between 400–600 calories.

If you have pets, take them on a walk. I’m not talking just having them do their business and coming right back in. I mean a real walk. Walk around the neighborhood for a few blocks (of course, only if you live in a safe area or have a big dog). Your dog needs the exercise just as much as you do, plus the attention that it will get from you with this one-on-one contact. A person of reasonable health should be able to walk for a mile in twenty minutes with no problem, but start off small if that bite seems too big. Start by walking around the block. Tomorrow, add another block. By the end of the week, you could be walking a five-block radius and won’t even realize it. Do it before work or at the end of the day after you get home.

Take the time to really look at your neighborhood. Smile and wave at neighbors, then compliment them on their lawn. Check out the blooming flowers, the warm summer breeze, the changing fall colors, or the crisp winter air. This will do two things: give you needed exercise and keep you in the moment. You will find yourself more relaxed, your mind will start to quiet, and your blood pressure will reduce.

Forest Bathing

You don’t have to be a serious hiker or cross-country athlete to get the benefit of the outdoors. Many benefits can be found of just being exposed in nature. Forest bathing may sound odd or unheard of to most, but is a great way of reducing stress. Much like sun-bathing, you are exposing yourself to the woods (bathing suit optional). Forest bathing is the Japanese practice called Shinrin-Yoku. Unlike exercise, you are not trying to burn calories doing this. Instead, forest bathing helps you reduce your blood pressure, lower your cholesterol levels, and reduce your heart rate all by just taking a stroll in the woods. For instance, in a three-hour session, you may only walk about a half of a mile or less.

Forest bathing allows you to achieve mindfulness in nature. Some call this Nature Therapy. Whenever our attention is focused on our senses, we are being mindful. We are feeling the grass under our feet and the breeze and sun on our skin. We hear the leaves rustle and birds sing. We smell the pine in the trees and the sweet scent of the flowers. We taste the sweetness of the air on our tongues. We see all the beauty that surrounds us. We are not trying to accomplish anything. We are simply just being in the moment and appreciating what is around us.

There is actually science that backs the benefits of Shinrin-Yoku. There is a substance in the soil that we breathe in when we walk in the woods. It is called Mycobacterium vaccae. It is common, harmless, and it makes us feel happier. Evergreens like pines, cedars, and spruces produce phytoncides, which are natural oils within a plant and are part of the tree’s defense system to protect it from insects, bacteria, and fungi. They are antibacterial compounds, and they boost the immune system. Phytoncides are composed of terpenes like D-limonene, Alpha-pinene, Beta-Pinene, and Camphene. Dr. Qing Li did a study on these substances and found that phytoncides significantly increased the numbers of NK cells (Natural Killer cells) and NK activity, which work to control viral infections and cancer cells. So get on the fighting side of phytoncides.

According to a 2014 U.N. report, fifty-four percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas. Never in our history have more Americans lived in the city than in rural areas. And our health is reflected in that. Environmental Health and Preventative Medicine published a study that showed that people who spent time in the forest had lower cortisol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower pulse rates than those who walked in the city. Studies have even proven that patients who have hospital rooms that face a park or even a tree have a quicker recovery rate than those who do not. Healthcare professionals are beginning to recognize forest bathing as a tool to manage stress. Some hospitals are using forest bathing as a part of their wellness services, such as the Northside Hospital Cancer Institute in Atlanta, Georgia. The positive effects of forest bathing have been exhibited days after the sessions.

Not only are we becoming more urban as a society, but we are also becoming more interior dwelling creatures. Many people are now suffering from vitamin D deficiency. Since we gain more vitamin D from sun exposure than we do food, it is important for us to get outside. Our increased use of sunscreen has also lead to a lack of vitamin D in our bodies. We cover our arms and legs in the colder months and slather on sunscreen in the warmer months. That does not allow our bodies to absorb the sun’s ray and get the vitamin D that we so badly need. Of course, I do not suggest rubbing yourselves down with Crisco and bake in the sun, although I do have a cousin that did that. She said it made her tan quicker. We definitely want to avoid getting skin cancer. We need ten to twenty minutes of sun exposure per day without sunscreen to get the amount that our bodies need to convert into vitamin D.

In the winter months especially, we see not only a decrease in vitamin D, but also an increase in Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Some refer to this as Seasonal Depression. It is a type of depression that is related to the changes in seasons, most often in the winter months when the temperatures are colder, there is less daylight, and there is less time outdoors. Women are diagnosed with SAD four times more often than men. It is believed that people with SAD may produce less vitamin D, and that may play a role in serotonin activity.

Even if you live in the city, you can spend some time in a local park, look at a tree outside your window, or add some plants into your home. Lucky bamboo is an easy plant to take care of, because they only require water and very little sunlight. You can find these bamboo plants in any of your local hardware chains in their garden departments. This plant is not only considered lucky, but it also adds moisture into the air. Another kind of bamboo is the Bamboo Palm, which grows bigger and may require a bit more light. It cleans the air of pollutants. Aloe Vera is also easy to take care of, and its leaves have healing benefits such as having antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It removes formaldehyde from the air.


“When you’re a kid, you lay in the grass and watch the clouds going over, and you literally don’t have a thought in your mind. It’s purely meditation, and we lose that.” ~ Dick Van Dyke

Meditation is a practice of training your mind. Just as you can train your body through physical exercises, you can train your mind with meditation. What you are trying to do is “empty” your mind. You may think, “Oh, sitting and thinking about nothing? That’s easy.” It’s not as easy as you think.

First, sit or lay down in a relaxed position. Use your breathing exercises to relax your body and calm your mind. Focus on your breath. Notice how your belly rises and falls with each breath. As thoughts creep into your mind, don’t get frustrated, but rather acknowledge the thought, and then let it slip away. When you begin, you will notice that it is quite difficult to “not think”. Try doing this for just a few minutes each day. Some days will be more difficult than others, but each week, add a few more minutes. Before you know it, you may be doing it for twenty minutes.

What is the point? The point is to make your mind calm, focused, and peaceful. The more calm and peaceful your mind is, the happier you will be. The more focused you become, the more productive you will be. Once you are more peaceful, you become more appreciative, compassionate, and kind. Like with breathing exercises, meditation will help you relax, relieve stress, energize yourself, along with other numerous other physical and psychological benefits. Meditation will help change your mind. Studies using an fMRI to scan the brain while people chanted have shown that chanting the word “om” could engage the area of the brain that is associated with inner peace and calmness. You will learn a lot about yourself. You will notice that your thoughts will transform from negative to positive over time.

Take a clean glass and scoop it into a puddle of muddy water. At first, one can observe the sediment swirling around the glass. It is impossible to see through the glass for the thickness of the muck. But given time, once the glass is still and the sediment falls to the bottom of the glass, the water becomes clear. This is an analogy for the mind. Thoughts tumble around like the sediment in the glass and cloudy our minds. If we can still our thoughts, our minds can become clear.


Relaxation may not be the goal of meditation, but it certainly is often the result. When you are relaxed, your body reaps the benefits with lower blood pressure and heart rate, improved circulation, and lower anxiety and stress. On a spiritual level, the ultimate benefit of meditation is freeing the mind from attachments, or enlightenment. Buddhists believe it creates a calmness of the mind and balance.

How to meditate

Meditation can be as simple as sitting with your spine straight or lying down in a comfortable position, closing your eyes, breathing naturally, and focusing your attention on your breath. You can start by just trying to do this for five minutes. See how you do.

There are several tools that you can use during your meditation practice to help you concentrate.

· Music

· Candle staring

· Repeating a mantra

· Visualizations

Try doing your meditation practice every day, even if it is only for a few minutes. It is also a good idea to pick a certain part of the day to practice so that it is easier to create a routine. It is recommended to practice meditation early in the morning or at dusk, which is the peak of your energies. An early morning session can get your day off to a great start or a dusk session can help you wind down and reflect as your day ends. But there is no right or wrong time. Any time that you can fit it in can be beneficial to you.

Laughter is the best medicine!

“Laughter is the tonic, the relief, the surcease for pain.” ~ Charlie Chaplin

The benefits of laughter to the human body are nearly immeasurable. There are quite complex and sophisticated physiological reactions that happen when we laugh. Our bodies respond to these reactions in several ways. Firstly, there is a decrease in stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, as well as an increase in beta-endorphins (which lower feelings of depression), when we laugh. Your body responds to laughter even if it is self-induced, or forced, laughter. Laughter also prompts the body to produce more T-cells, which boost our immune systems. People who laugh more tend to live longer and tend to be healthier overall.

Humor is a great functioning tool to use against stress. It can be a self-defense mechanism. It’s like the old saying “Laugh or cry”; in most situations, those are your two options. If you can laugh at your misfortune, it has no control over you.

Laughter is the best medicine. It:

  • Relaxes the whole body
  • Boosts the immune system
  • Triggers the release of endorphins
  • Improves the function of the heart
  • Burns calories (Laughing for 10–15 minutes can burn 40 calories!)
  • Decreases pain

And that’s just the physical stuff. Laughter also:

  • Eases anxiety and depression
  • Relieves stress
  • Improves your mood
  • Improves self-esteem
  • Alleviates anger and frustration
  • Strengthens relationships and reduces loneliness
  • Enhances teamwork and helps defuse conflict
  • Just makes us more attractive!

There is a strong link between laughter and mental health. Why do you think sitcoms and comedies are so popular?

Great. How do I start? Start by simply smiling. Smiling will make you physically feel better. According to Scientific American, making an emotional face influences your feelings. Charles Darwin wrote that “the free expression by outward signs of an emotion intensifies it.”

  • Smile. When you walk down the street or hall, make eye contact and smile at those you pass. Say hello. Now, if you live in big cities, people may not know how to take it, but give it a try. You will eventually find this has an effect on others.
  • Count your blessings. That’s another old saying, but it works. Take the time to literally make a list of the good things in your life. People focus so much on what’s wrong, you’ll be surprised how grateful you will feel when you see in black and white what is so right!
  • Surround yourself with fun people. They always say if you want to be successful, surround yourself with successful people. The same can be said for happiness.

Take your inner child on a play date! Create opportunities to laugh:

  • Watch a funny TV show or movie
  • Read the comics
  • Share a joke
  • Play with a pet
  • Play with children
  • Don’t be afraid to be silly
  • Go to a comedy club or Improv theater
  • Have a game night with friends
  • Go out bowling, karaoke, putt-putt, or any fun activity
  • Go to a “Laughter” class

CAUTION: Laughter can be highly contagious.

WARNING: 5 out of 5 doctors will eventually die.

Want more laughter in your life? Get a pet. Not only will you receive a companion for life, but you will also receive unconditional love. Studies have shown that pets reduce your stress, decrease depression, lower blood pressure, and so much more.


“I started writing a journal, and I was learning so much along the way. How to deal with your family, how to deal with your friends.” ~ Tom Brokaw

Another way to deal with stress is by journaling. It’s not just for teenage girls. You can vent your thoughts through the written word by releasing pent-up feelings and thoughts. In addition to helping you reduce stress, it can also sharpen your memory, boost your mood, and strengthen your emotional functions. Some studies even suggest that journaling can strengthen and improve the immune system. It enhances your communications skills, both verbally and written, as well as your reading skills. It can help you set and meet goals. Journaling can also improve your quality of life.

Journaling can reduce stress, and it is proven. Even just journaling a few times a month can lower your blood pressure and improve liver functionality. Also, journaling before bedtime can help you develop better sleep habits. It is an effective tool to help you clear your head as well as make connections between your thoughts and feelings. It requires you to apply the analytical part of your brain at the same time while giving your brain the freedom of creativity. Both the left and right brain are being used simultaneously.

The art of journaling keeps your brain on its toes. It helps to boost your memory and comprehension while also increasing your memory capacity, which may reflect in improved cognitive processing. It can improve your mood. In the long-run, journaling can give you a sense of overall well-being and happiness. By keeping tabs on your feelings and even physicality, you become more in tune with your overall health as well as inner needs and wants. Journaling can also be quite cathartic. It can help you identify patterns in your life. It is a great tool to help not only manage stress, but also anxiety and depression.

Journaling has been found to be quite helpful for those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or other trauma issues. It allows us to confront inhibited emotions and process difficult events. It guides us to compose a narrative about past events and experiences. We then become more self-aware and detect unhealthy patterns of behavior. It gives us the freedom to take control of our lives. People with obsessive disorders or eating disorders can find journaling beneficial by encouraging them to confront their issues and prevent them from distancing themselves from these issues. This, in turn, helps them to properly manage their emotions and cope with the stress. If you have lost a loved one, journaling can help you to process your grief and reduce the more severe symptoms of the bereavement. If your issue is one of addiction, writing in a recovery journal can aid you in recording your struggles as well as your accomplishments.

Seeing what you have accomplished on paper is quite powerful. Each year, I make a list of the accomplishments that I have made that year. It prevents me from beating myself up for the perceived things that I have not done, and it gives me a sense of motivation and gratitude. It prepares me for the upcoming year by getting my mind prepared to set goals. It sets up a more positive perspective of your current life and provides the drive for the future without becoming overwhelmed.

Try writing about gratitude. Write down the things that you are grateful for every day. There is always something to be grateful for. Regularly journaling about the positive things in your life can improve your disposition and prepare you to better deal with the rough patches in life when they occur. It can give you a better perspective on what is really important to you and help you truly appreciate your life. You will discover what really matters to you, what you need, and what you can live without.

You don’t have to start out with any huge revelations. You can start by writing just one little line. Write about what you ate for lunch. It can be purely a stream of consciousness. You don’t have to be a good writer. Just write something. And journaling is easy and cheap. You can buy a basic composition book for less than a dollar. The hardest part is the start. Like Nike says, just do it! Write first thing in the morning when you first wake up, or write before you go to bed. Once you get in the habit, the words will flow out of you like a stream after a spring rain.

You can express your deepest thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment or shame. When you journal, be mindful of when negative thoughts creep in. Replace those negative thoughts with positive self-talk. You must remember to be kind to yourself. It is okay to release your negativity through your journal, but try to keep the focus on your positives. You want to shift from a negative mindset to a more positive one.


“Technology is a useful servant but a dangerous master.” ~ Christian Lous Lange

With social media being so predominant in today’s society, we are constantly on our phones, tablets, and laptops, scrolling through our feeds. If we aren’t doing that, we are playing video games and watching TV. Technology has opened us up to more information than no other generation before us. But all of this freedom has made us quite closed off. We have created our own little prisons via Facebook and Twitter. We spend countless hours checking our phones and updating our statuses. This is time that could have been better spent working on projects, focusing on our goals, reading a book, or even communicating with real people!

And we spend all of this time on social media with people we barely know or barely even like. We are missing out on real human connections. We have lost the art of personal communication. Try talking to a millennial today. They don’t know how to make eye contact when they talk IRL (in real life). Don’t get me started on people who don’t know how to give a proper handshake! In many urban areas, if you try to make casual conversation with someone, they think you are trying to mug them. Humans are naturally social creatures. Most people need to have human contact in order to survive. Socialization is as crucial to human endurance as water, food, and shelter.

It is also important to have a strong support system. In regards to stress, it is important to be able to have someone to lean on. Being able to share your thoughts and concerns with someone else is a great way of alleviating the burden on your shoulders. Just having someone to bounce ideas off, someone to vent to, or someone to cheer you up can take away some of the excessive stress that we encounter daily. Just knowing that someone has your back can help your disposition so much. Also, the give and take of a relationship allows your compassion, gratitude, and understanding to grow.

The thing that is most wrong with adults is that they have forgotten how to be kids. As adults, we have lost our sense of natural creativity and genuine play. When was the last time that you shuffled your feet through dried, crinkling leaves in the fall? Or the last time that you sat back in the grass and tried to figure out if that puffy, white cloud was shaped like a dog? Nurturing that creative side in us can aid us in finding creative ways to deal with stress and solve problems. Adult play can help our brains stay sharp and resilient.

Schedule time to play and have fun. Buy crossword puzzles and word searches to improve brain function. Get a coloring book to stimulate the mind and boost creativity. There are Mandala coloring books available if you want an “adult” coloring book, which has beautiful shapes and designs. (Just be careful if you look up “adult coloring” at work or you might get fired.) Fill your own toy box with puzzles, games, Play-Doh, and Legos. Who says that stuff is just for kids? Join a team. When was the last time you played dodgeball? Take a class. Pole dancing, anyone? Try an escape room, laser tag, or paintball. There is no better feeling than shooting a zombie with a machine gun in a laser tag event. When you share laughter and fun, you improve your connection to others, as well as, improve your social skills and cooperation with others. When you play, you find an increase in your levels of love, joy, and happiness.

As important as socialization is, we also need to recognize when we need some alone time. It is important to take time out to reflect, reevaluate, regroup, and recharge. If you are an introvert, you know how draining overstimulation can be. Like the bear in the winter goes into hibernation mode, we humans, too, need to hibernate from time to time.

Color Therapy and Psychology

Have you ever wondered why you felt drawn to a particular color? Why did you wear a green shirt today? Why do you feel relaxed in one friend’s room and energized in another? We are influenced by color. Color can affect our moods and emotions. Research has found that in general, we associate certain colors with certain emotions.

· Red: aggressiveness, passion, intensity, energy, confidence, stimulating

· Orange: energy, ambition, creativity, enthusiasm, courage, happiness, success

· Yellow: happiness, optimism, cheerful, warmth, confidence, wakefulness

· Green: renewal, peace, prosperity, tranquility, soothing, calming, healing, nature

· Blue: serenity, focus, peace, relaxing, harmony, stability, trust, confidence

· Violet/Purple: Intuition, creativity, spiritual, wisdom, mystery, wealth, power, luxury

· White: purity, cleanliness, innocence, spacious

Color psychology is based on the mental and emotional effects that colors can influence on sighted people. Art therapy often uses color to associate with a person’s emotions. Now, that being said, how color affects someone is dependent on one’s personal experiences, so it is difficult to make a color universally translated to specific feelings. Personal experiences, culture, background, and preferences play a role in what colors you may be more drawn to.

Even marketing has caught on to the power of color. Ninety percent of impulse buying decisions on products are based solely on color. Red, orange, and yellow tend to whet one’s appetite, so it is no accident that McDonald’s color scheme is red and yellow. Blue tends to curb appetite, so if you are trying to lose weight, get blue plates. Products and companies like Lowe’s, Dell, AT&T, and Wal-mart use the color blue, which signifies trust, dependability, and strength. Whole Foods, Tropicana, and Publix use green as their primary color to represent peacefulness, growth, and health. For a sense of excitement, youthfulness, and boldness, companies like Nintendo, Coca-Cola, Lego, and Target make use of the color red. Hooters wants to create an atmosphere that is friendly and cheerful, so it is no coincidence that they use a lot of orange. Companies and organizations don’t pick these color schemes on a whim. There is a lot of science and research that goes into these selections to attract their potential customers.

If you are stressed, green and blue are two great colors to have around. Both have a relaxing and calming effect. Paint a wall one of these colors. According to a Travelodge survey, those who have blue bedrooms sleep an average of seven hours and fifty-two minutes each night. Those whose bedrooms were red had the worst sleep. So if you have trouble sleeping, paint the walls blue or throw on a blue comforter. Invest in some blue or green pillows. Add some green plants into your home. Plants will add oxygen into your environment, and the color is soothing.

You may be thinking this is crazy talk, but there is some science to back it up. Color therapy, also known as chromotherapy or light therapy, uses colored lights to create subtle changes in mood, and it has been practiced for centuries. Light not only enters through your eyes, but it is also absorbed through your skin. For instance, WebMD reported that LED green-light therapy has helped people suffering from migraines. This study worked so well that the trial participants refused to return the lights back to the researchers after the study. As I mentioned in the forest bathing section, people are affected by SAD due to a lack of exposure to light, specifically during the winter months. People, like plants, need to be exposed to different kinds of light. There are actually lights on the market that emit light that replicates the sun. It is quite helpful for people suffering from SAD.


“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” ~ Bob Marley

Music plays a special role in most of our lives. It evokes a response that is universal. It can take you back to a place and time long ago. It can change your mood. It can inspire, or it can make you cry. It can get you through a long morning commute or accompany you in a workout at the gym. Music can help you pass the time while you are doing mundane chores like laundry. Employees have been found to be more productive when allowed to listen to their preferred music choices over those who have no control over their musical choices. But even background music increases performance and accuracy in employees and also enables efficiency in repetitive tasks. Music has been a teacher to us as children, helping us learn the alphabet and numbers. Like with color, advertisers exploit music to get us excited to buy the products that they are peddling. Example: McDonald’s jingle for a Big Mac: “Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.” Don’t tell me you didn’t have that tune playing in your head as you read that line!

It may create a timestamp in your mind. For instance, the song “Amazing” by Aerosmith was popular when I found out that I was pregnant. When my grandfather died, I listened to the song “Creep” by Radiohead as we were driving to the gravesite. Two very different songs, but when I hear them, I am brought back to specific places and times along with all the emotion that went with them. Even listening to “sad” music is beneficial in a cathartic way.

Music has been influencing the human race since nearly the dawn of man. Bone flutes have been dated back to between 40,000–80,000 years ago. The first instrument, however, was the human voice. It is thought that primitive man probably communicated emotion before the constructs of language were established. Before there was writing, our ancestors used music to help them remember things.

The brain’s relationship with music is fantastic. When a musician sits down at a piano, several things happen. The brain executes a motor-action plan, which is a sequence of events that unfold in a particular order. Your brain relays information to your fingers as to what pattern of notes to play in what order. As you rehearse these movements repeatedly, you strengthen the neural circuits in your brain. Like the saying, practice makes perfect! Music is also associated with the brain’s reward system. As we play or listen to music, dopamine is released. This process is similar to what happens in your brain in response to sex or food, except unlike the other two, there is no survival value involved in music. Oxytocin is also released by singing. It is often referred to as the “cuddle hormone”. Serotonin levels can increase after listening to music.

It is proven that music improves the health and function of our brains. By listening to and playing music, we become more intelligent and happier regardless of our stage of life. Children who study music and the arts do better in Math and Science. Stanford University of Medicine investigated the power of music on the mind, and they found that when people listen to music, their attention spans can be increased. They learned this by the brain images of people as they listened to music and even in the pauses in between musical movements and pieces. During these pauses, there was still activity in the brain, which led them to believe that the brain anticipates events to come.

Music influences our behavior. It affects the brain as well as other body structures, which can be observable and measurable. Music is the only sensory experience that can activate all areas of the brain simultaneously. This affects a person’s cognitive, emotional, and physical functions. Because of this, music therapy is used successfully in rehabilitation, education, and wellness programs. Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital offers a music therapy program to work with children of all ages and their families to create individualized interventions to aid their patients. Music therapy can help with pain management, anxiety, stress, socialization, coping, sensory stimulation, memory building, and enhancing mood. For example, classical music tends to have a calming and relaxing effect. That being said, no matter what type of music, your brain prefers the same kind of music that you do. It depends on personal experiences, background, and preferences, much like with color.

How does this happen? There have been studies that used brain imaging to show that the right hemisphere is activated when listening to music in relation to the emotional experience. Even just imagining music activates this part of the brain. Plato thought that music would arouse different emotions, and there seems to have been a link between music and emotion for most of human existence. Even the tempo of the music affects our moods, for example, slower music seems less joyous than faster rhythms.

A study by Michael H. Thaut, PhD., a Music Professor of Neuroscience, has shown that music’s relationship to the brain can actively facilitate the recovery of movement in patients with cerebral palsy, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, and traumatic brain injury. Another study called Music Therapy for Depression by A. Maratos, C. Gold, X. Wang, and M. Crawford of patients with memory disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease suggested that musical traces can be deeply ingrained and are more resilient to these neurodegenerative influences. Another study from the University of Central Florida found that Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s patients responded positively to music. Some studies suggest that learning new skills, like how to play a musical instrument, may possibly help stave off dementia. There is evidence to support that music can decrease the frequency of seizures in children with epilepsy in both awake and sleep states. And yet another study in the Trends in Cognitive Sciences journal showed that patients who listened to music prior to surgery had lower cortisol levels and less anxiety than those who took anti-anxiety medications.



Christy Eidson

Comedian, Actor, Writer, Podcaster, Youtube Content Creator, and Entrepreneur.