“Playing music with others or enjoying live music stimulates the cuddle hormone oxytocin.”

Tabla player Yama Sarshar performing during the Eindeloos India Festival in de Doelen

Everyone is familiar with stress, yet most of us struggle to prevent or alleviate its effects. Stress is a universal reaction to a stimulus, which can signify both a positive challenge and a negative threat. Positive stress is a brief arousal that occurs just before we engage in something important, such as during sports activities. On the flip side, negative stress is a prolonged state of arousal that often feels uncontrollable, leading to restlessness or fear.

How to reduce negative stress

Jazz legend Ronald Snijders performing during the Eindeloos India Festival in de Doelen

To alleviate the symptoms of negative stress, doctors often resort to prescribing medications like antidepressants and sedatives. However, prolonged use of these medications can lead to addiction, trapping patients in a vicious cycle. Stopping these meds can be stressful in itself, and relying on them may inflict additional harm on both the body and mind.
Moreover, using medications to cope with stress prevents us from teaching ourselves how to manage stress-related symptoms independently. In essence, it becomes crucial to comprehend the mechanisms of stress and differentiate between positive and negative stress. Now, an intriguing question arises: how can we harness the power of music to reduce negative stress levels?

Martina de Witte | PC: Rebecca Fertinel

Martina de Witte is lecturer in music therapy and a PhD researcher who conducted a quantitative social research:“Effect of Music interventions on Stress Reduction in Medical and Mental Heath Care Settings”. She researched the cohesion between music and stress focussing on the physiological and psychological effects. Physiological effects of stress are increased heart rate or blood pressure, psychological effects of stress are restlessness, nervousness, anxiety, subjective worry and chronic fatigue. She found that music can help to reduce stress. Music is often associated with pleasant and positive feelings. When we are in love some of us tend to listen to romantic music, because it enhances our positive emotions. And while we listen to music we increase the neurotransmitter dopamine (the hormone that boosts our happiness levels). Music also affects our brain structures that are involved in emotional processes. Playing music with others or enjoying live music stimulates the cuddle hormone oxytocin. Basically, music is a cost-effective and non-addictive way to reduce stress levels (lowering heart rate, blood pressure and the hormone cortisol).

What is music intervention

Music intervention (music medicine) is a medical treatment with purposeful musical activities in which music listening, music making or singing is central. During music intervention a patient listens to pre-recorded music offered by medical or healthcare professionals. Most of the pre-recorded music is instrumental classical music without major dynamics in the composition. There is high-level evidence that music interventions can be effective for stress reduction; even one session can be effective! Music interventions are very easy, safe and inexpensive to integrate into our daily lives and in medical settings.

Audience enjoying performance during Many faces of Love at Kunsthal

Prescribe yourself instrumental music

in the center Natasha Mohamed-Hoesein, Alderman of Rotterdam sitting next to DesiYUP goodwil ambassadors Aniel Autar (left of center) from Kooijman-autar Notarissen and Shaira Kasi (right of center) from Parla House of dentistry, during the Eindeloos India festival in de Doelen.

Facts about the effects of music to reduce stress levels are important to state, but it’s much better to motivate yourself to reduce your daily stress levels. You can start with listening to instrumental music three times a day for twenty minutes. While waking up, during a lunch break and before you go to bed. This is merely a suggestion from my end, but try out a timetable that is convenient for you. Pre-select the music that you like to listen to during these twenty minute sessions. And while listening to this music avoid doing any stress-causing chores. Focus on your breathing, relax and listen. You can keep notes of these sessions and write down the emotions that you experience or thoughts that cross your mind. Use these ‘mind notes’ to analyse your own feelings and thought process, you might find the key to some unanswered questions.


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