Monday, June 1, 2015

Music for Relaxation of the Mind and Body

As I have been preparing for the birth of our third child, I have been giving a lot of thought and research to the music that I have during labor and delivery. My 2nd baby was born over 5 years ago and I was still carrying around a ipod Nano...(do they even make those anymore??), but now with phones, I have access to an even bigger library as well as Spotify.  

Everyone is different and music preference depends on many reasons, a few of them being what you were exposed to growing up, what you preferred in your late elementary to early 20s, and personality.  Music that relaxes one person may not be the same that relaxes another, but there are some wonderful guidelines or suggestions to follow that many people have in common when it comes to relaxing the mind and body. 

Suggestions to Follow when Selecting Music for Relaxing the Mind and Body

Select music without words.  Adding lyrics to music adds another element for the brain to focus on, taking your focus off of emptying your mind of stressors and your breathing. It just adds another distraction that your brain subconsciously is hearing and processing.

Simple, slow melodies- Many songs that are written for relaxation actually have melody lines that move very quickly.  The brain will track that quick paced melody causing a lot more activity in the brain than desired for a relaxed state. I would suggest finding music with a lot more sustained pitches that do not have a lot of complicated rhythms as well as syncopated ones. I like to use a composer name Chuck Wild as a great example for relaxation.  In his Liquid Mind series, he uses his slow breaths to determine when to change chords in his composition. A resting heart rate of 60-70 beats per minute is often suggested for tempo.

Simple arrangements- Music with too many instruments and too much harmonization adds more complicated sounds for the brain to track and focus on, making it overstimulating. 

Dissonance vs. not- I personally do not like to have chords in my relaxation music with a lot of dissonant chords.  I find that it causes too much tension in my mind and I feel much more at ease with chord progressions consisting of more major chords and some minor ones.   Many albums out there for yoga and meditation do have some pieces with a lot of dissonance. Some people enjoy that and you may too.  It just is not my own preference. 

My favorite pieces will be listed below!

Quiet Music for Babies or Early Childhood

All of these suggestions are important to keep in mind for yourself, but especially for young children and babies.  Babies are still developing their sensory systems and complex information is more difficult to process.  I find that simple music lowers the chance of becoming overstimulated.  

Volume is also a key element in seeing that they can rest or calm more peacefully.  Volume that seems okay for your own enjoyment may be much too loud for such little ears.  When studying in our music therapy program many years ago, research had shown that the loudest healthy volume for adult ears was the volume of a hair dryer.  Can you imagine how unhealthy a concert is for our hearing, especially for young children?

Timbre is another component that can affect a babies ease.  When working with my students with autism, I have noticed that metallic tones can be quite bothersome such as some glockenspiels or tamborines.  Low, fuller tones may be more pleasant to the ears such as low tones on the recorder, piano, or clarinet. 

I have also heard it said that music can help us get to sleep, but it should be turned off after we achieve sleep because we actually do not sleep as well with the noise in the background. It may be useful to set a timer. Many devices allow you to do this. 

My favorites for  meditation, yoga, or just calming the mind.

  • Liquid Mind Albums- Chuck Wild
  • Relaxation: 101 Relaxing Nature Sounds-Relaxing Sounds of Nature White Noise 4 Mindfulness Meditation Relaxation Specialists
  • Ambience -Yoga and Spirituality: Mindfulness Music by Ambient Music Creator
  • Reiki Healing Music for Health- Yoga and Spirituality: Mindfullness Music by Reiki and Reiki
  • Sounds of Nature without music such as Ocean Waves from Rest and Relax Nature Sounds album.
  • Disney's Lullaby Album Volume 2- Fred Molin- This album is instrumental version of popular songs so your brain will think about the words, but I still enjoy it.

    If I have the need to slow down and chill out where I am not actually trying to meditate or concentrate on deep breathing and mind training I enjoy Jim Brickman or David Tolk.  Brickman has beautiful piano arrangements, although there are a lot of moving lines in the melodies.  I enjoy Tolk's beautiful chord progressions and also his beautiful instrumentation. 

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