Sunday, August 10, 2014

Therapy Corner: Music and Relaxation

by Kyle & Lindsey Wilhelm, MT-BC

If you want to use music to help you or someone else relax, you need to think of music as a tool you can use purposefully to achieve a certain effect, not as entertainment and not as background noise, but as a tool. And the first step in this process is to identify the music that you find enjoyable and aesthetically pleasing. We all instinctively know what music we feel is relaxing to us. Some people find New Age piano relaxing, while others classical violin music, yet others love Gregorian chant. And what is relaxing to one person might be terribly grating to another. The key is to find what works for you.

Another secret is not in what kind of music you use, but how you use it. Imagine that you are at the end of a stressful day at work or are “keyed up” after playing with grandchildren at the end of the day. You would like to be quieting yourself down and getting ready for bed so you put on some soft violin music with ocean waves in the background. This may relax you, or it might actually make you more agitated even if it is music you normally find relaxing. This is because the music you chose does not match how you are feeling in the moment. What you need to pick first is music that more closely matches how you are feeling. Then you would follow that song with songs that are GRADUALLY slower. Five or six songs should do the trick. That way you encourage your body and your brain to slow down or entrain with the music. This technique is called the iso-principle and is very effective at relaxing yourself or others.

Incidentally, you could achieve the opposite effect (wake somebody up who is very sleepy) by doing it the other way around. You would start with a slow song followed by songs that are gradually faster. Gradually is the key word here because the music can then work at a subconscious level to achieve whatever it is you want to achieve.

So by identifying music that is right for you, putting 5-6 songs in a sequence of fastest to slowest, and using it as a tool you may find yourself feeling more relaxed in no time.

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