3 Ways Making Music Can Combat Stress

November 9, 2021

By Nicolette Foss

We are all affected by stress. But the effects of stress are not always as noticeable as that all-too-familiar eye twitch brought on by a grueling workday. Tension can build up from seemingly innocuous situations like the rush at the cash register to make way for the next customer in line. Or the extra 15 minutes added onto a rainy morning commute when you’re already late. 

These tiny worries can pile up and lead to health problems like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart problems, anxiety, and depression. But luckily there are tons of ways to combat stress to make our lives more manageable and enjoyable.

One of our favorite stress relievers is music.


3 Ways Playing Music Promotes Stress Relief

Music is one of the most powerful antidotes to stress and is always available during times of hardship. Not only can listening to music relieve stress, but making music yourself is one of the ultimate ways to transcend tension buildup.

So how can learning to play a keyboard, guitar, zills, tuba, theremin, hammered dulcimer, or any other musical instrument reduce the accumulation of stress? Here are just a few valuable benefits of picking up an instrument:

  1. It sharpens your mind: Just like learning a new language, playing an instrument has been shown to help strengthen the executive function of the brain. This part of the brain is in charge of things like planning, self-control, time management, adaptable thinking, working memory, organization, and self-monitoring. Sharpening these features can lead to better long-term memory and more mental alertness. When you are practicing an instrument, you are learning how to process more sensorial inputs at once. While you are making sure your fingers are in the right position, you are also listening for the right note. This heightened alertness allows you to integrate different senses at once instead of being stressed and overwhelmed by them.
  2. It allows you to be fully present: A lot of our time is spent worrying about the past (did that piece of gum you swallowed at age 10 ever fully digest?) or the future (how will all the gum I’ve swallowed affect me?). But when you are playing an instrument, all your concentration and senses are focused on hitting the right note (instead of worrying about the gum contents of your stomach). You are mindfully present and enjoying the moment, which can lead to positive emotions and less stress.
  3. It spreads happiness and connection: In an increasingly divided world, loneliness is at an all-time high. This epidemic is associated with increased rates of morbidity and mortality and has a strong association with stress levels. It is evident that we have a high need for more connection in our lives. Thankfully, music is something that we all have in common, and that which we have in common can connect us and help defeat loneliness. We can laugh, dance, sing, and play together. When you play music, this gives you the opportunity to put a smile on someone’s face and wipe away stress, even for a moment. Reach out with a Zoom call today and perform for your friends and family! You never know what a difference you may make.
"Ode to Joy" on a Songbird Hammered Dulcimer

Pick Up a Musical Instrument Today

If you feel anxious and powerless in the chaos of your life, pick up an instrument. We may be biased, but we think the hammered dulcimer is one of the most soothing musical instruments to play in times of stress. Learning to play the hammered dulcimer combats stress by helping sharpen cognition as well as allowing you to become more present in your life. But best of all, you can make a difference in this stressful world by bringing the joy of music to others. 

How has making music helped you out in times of stress? Let us know in the comments below.

About the author: In her childhood, Nicolette Foss could be found underneath piles of sawdust in her father’s hammered dulcimer workshop. She helped with odds and ends in the business, attended folk music festivals, and learned the importance of hard work. These days,  you can find her belly dancing to instrumental Arabic music, learning the Serbian language, making short films with friends, and cuddling her cat Georgie. If you’d like to hire Nicolette for content writing or copywriting work, contact her at: nicolettelady@protonmail.com

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  • Tony Norris says:

    Thanks Niki, the nut doesn’t fall far from the tree. Music continues to heal/ engage/ entertain me. Greetings to the old man. Tony

    • Songbird Dulcimers says:

      Hi Tony! Niki here. The nut has indeed not fallen too far from the tree. But distance-wise I live in Serbia now. 😛 I’m glad to hear you are doing well and still making music. Thanks for reaching out and sharing your experience! 🙂

  • Lynne Montavon says:

    I agree with all the points made here. After all the problems with covid, unemployment and starting a new stressful job, just the presence of my dulcimer brings me peace…

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