Have you ever heard a song on the radio that changed your mood, brought back memories, or made you feel a certain way, like you were transported to another place and time? Stand By Me? In The Name of Love? Back in Black? It’s an incredible feeling. I still remember growing up and hearing for the first time some of those classic Southern Rock songs from Lynyrd Skynyrd like Freebird, The Ballad of Curtis Lowe, or Sweet Home Alabama. Anytime I hear those songs it takes me back to really good times and laughter with friends from my hometown.
There was an ancient saying in Greece…. “Exercise for the body and music for the soul.” Even though we all love music and listen to it frequently, we may have underestimated its powerful health-boosting effects. The nervous system (the brain, spinal cord, and connected nerves) is constantly processing information and communicating with the rest of the body about what this music means. Some music genres like techno, rap, heavy metal, and hard rock can be quite enjoyable, can motivate us when we need an extra push, or help us to cut loose when we’re out to have fun. These high-intensity types of music stimulate the nervous system into action and can also be a powerful force for performing better and tapping into our energy reserves. Listening to this type of music is like drinking a cup of coffee, literally.
There are two Autonomic (automatic) parts of the nervous system which operate independently and in opposition to one another. One part, the sympathetic nervous system, boosts heart rate and slows digestion while the other, the parasympathetic nervous system, boosts digestion and slows heart rate. Both are crucial to good health. There is a time and a place for everything under the sun and that includes the two types of automatic nervous system activity, sympathetic and parasympathetic.
If we do things to boost the parasympathetic nervous system, our immunity could improve in several ways. We could obtain more digestive nutrients from our food, we could stimulate higher brain activity through deeper, more relaxed breathing, and we could process thoughts and emotions better. There are several ways to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system: massage, walking, prayer, nature, stretching, breathing, aromatherapy, meditation, and finally, music.
Relaxing music can boost our parasympathetic nervous system and help us relax and recover. Everyone is different, but my favorite types of music to relax to are delta blues, classical music, jazz, or movie scores. You may not even notice it happening while you’re listening to it but your subconscious mind and parasympathetic nervous system are paying attention. Your muscles are relaxing, you aren’t obsessing as much, your heart rate and blood pressure are decreasing, and your digestion, circulation, and memory are improving.
It sounds like common sense and it is, but it’s also backed up by research. Plus as we all know, common sense is really not that common, is it?
FYI, these are some of my favorite relaxing stations on Pandora: U2, Jack Johnson, John Mayer, Film Scores Radio, Brazilian Jazz, Tango Argentina, Mozart Radio, Norah Jones, and Delta Blues.