Nurturing our physical, emotional, spiritual, and communal health is as important as ever.
And yet, many of us are finding it harder and harder to keep up with our self-care. Both deep breathing and music listening promote physiological relaxation by lowering your heart rate, cortisol levels, and blood pressure. Additionally, music listening distracts from pain or negative thought cycles, offers an aesthetic experience, and connects us to our inner world. Incorporating music with deep breathing is a simple way to relax, destress, and create space for a daily mindfulness routine.
So what kind of music should I use?
It’s widely accepted in music psychology that the best music for relaxation is your music! However, we do have a few tips and suggestions to get you started.
Stable and predictable music will help you feel safe and relax into the moment. Listen to “Sleep 2” by Sigur Ros for an example of a song with a consistent pace, volume, and energy level:
Calm, light mood: your selection doesn’t need to sound happy or upbeat, but it’s important to choose something that will leave you feeling good. J.S. Bach’s “Air in D Major” has withstood the test of time in putting people into a state of ease:
Listen to warm, soothing instruments. This varies from person to person, but many people enjoy the sound of wooden flute, harp, violin, cello, piano, or voice. Listen to the shakuhachi, a traditional Japanese flute for one example.
Again, no song is a one-size-fits-all. Find music that considers your cultural context, personal preferences, and past associations. We’ve compiled a Spotify playlist with some of our favorites to get you started!
Okay, I settled on my music. Now what should I do?
There are many ways to incorporate deep breathing with music and it’s important to find the right one for you. To start, find an uninterrupted spot, with gentle lighting, and get into a comfortable position, whether seated or lying down. Review the following instructions and consider them while listening and breathing deeply, closing your eyes if comfortable.
. . .Start by noticing the qualities of your breath, breathing in and out. . .
. . .Breathe in for four, hold for seven, and breathe out for eight. . .
(Alternately, breathe in for three, out for six
breathe in for seven, out for eleven)
. . .Start to notice the muscles in your head–at the top of your skull, your eyes, your ears, your jaw. Breathe in to invite relaxation and breathe out to release tension. . .
. . .Repeat the above process for your neck, shoulders, arms. . .all the way down to your feet.
. . .If your mind wanders, that is okay. Notice, and come back to counting your breath.
You can practice the above exercise for whatever length of time suits you. Whether it’s one, five, or thirty minutes, you will soon begin to feel more grounded and relaxed than you started. Incorporating deep breathing and music in your daily practice is a simple way to reduce stress, distract from pain, and move into the rest of your day refreshed!