[musicnotes]Dreams of George from Grey’s Anatomy and sandy beaches are suddenly halted as history sophomore Diedra Diebolt is awakened by her professor asking her a question. Realizing that she has once again fallen asleep in the middle of her 8 a.m. class, Dibolt ignores the giggles of her classmates, takes a large swig of her morning coffee and attempts to respond. Having two more classes, a test to study for and work that night, Diebolt is going to need a lot more that a double shot of espresso to get her through the stress of the day.
Luckily, after sleep deprivation and caffeine-induced concentration have stretched her patience to its end, Diebolt can depart once again to her calming beach by slipping into her headphones. “When I’m having a bad day I really like to listen to the Grey’s Anatomy soundtrack,” Diebolt said. “It’s not all up-tempo, but a lot of the music is really poppy and upbeat. It makes me want to jump out of my room and dance all the way to my classes.”
When the countless cups of coffee and quick naps throughout the day don’t quite cut it, many MSU students use music to get unstressed and energized. Bringing out an iPod for a few moments each day has been proven to do just that. [rockout]
In a study reported in the Journal of Music Therapy, college undergrad students were asked to prepare for an oral presentation. Half of the students prepared for the presentation while listening to Pachelbel’s Canon in D major, while the other half prepared in silence. The students not listening to music were found to have a significant increase in anxiety, heart rate and blood pressure. However, the students who were listening to music did not experience an increase in blood pressure and their heart rates stayed constant. While most students don’t blast Pachelbel’s latest concerto when they are stressed, they are probably already experiencing the same benefits.
“Students use music all the time for therapy and they don’t even realize it,” MSU music therapy professor Frederick Tims said. “It’s a type of self medication. I would suggest listening to whatever music works for you, not necessarily a particular type of music. As a music therapist we help people find something that they like and that will help them and then measure their stress levels to determine if it is effective. Using music is definitely an effective way to reduce stress.”
Business management sophomore Allison Kemmer agrees. She thinks that choosing music with soothing lyrics is most effective for her. “If I’m stressed out I like to listen to \’Smile\’ by Lilly Allen, and also John Mayer, Death Cab for Cutie, Blue October, and The Fray,” Kemmer said. “I listen to \’Smile\’ because her lyrics are telling you that no matter what you do, even if someone you know is in a bad mood or crying and affecting you, you just have to let go and smile.”
While it is important to choose music based on what works best for you, some types may be more effective than others. Tims suggested that listening to slower-paced music might be more efficient when you want to be calmed down. Holistic Online, an alternative medicine website, states that choosing music with a tempo below the natural human heart rate, about 72 beats per minute, is most effective. The site also says music with a repeating pattern is helpful.
Russian studies sophomore Elise Stephens listens to soft music when she wants to calm down. “When I’m stressed, I turn on the classical station as loud as I can,” Stephens said. “With classical there’s something really soothing about music with no words. You can get lost in the layers of it; it tends to be more multi-faceted than contemporary music. Or I listen to rap…. I just rock out to it and end up feeling happy. The level and nature of the stress tends to dictate which way my hand goes on the radio tuner. If I\’m stressed and feeling frantic – classical. If I\’m stressed to the point of being pissed off – rap.”
Besides using music to reduce stress, students can also harness the power of music to get focused, whether it’s to do school work or shed a few extra pounds. Many psychologists believe in something called “The Mozart Effect,” the belief that listening to Mozart improves focus and concentration.
In a study reported by the Society for Education, Music and Psychology research, students listening to music, both Mozart and other classical songs, scored higher on a concentration test than those who did not listen to music. While the belief of using only Mozart to improve concentration is highly debated among psychologists, Tims feels the concept of using music to concentrate in this theory is right on track.
“A lot of people are very much able to focus on music, and so it can really help center your focus,” Tims said. “It grabs your attention and gets you focused on just one thing. Then you can use that to change your focus to anything you want it to be on, say reading for example. Most people’s trouble isn’t that they can’t focus on school work, it’s that they can’t focus on any one thing. Music can help that.”
Though classical music isn’t usually popular with college students, veterinary medicine sophomore Amanda Mattson enjoys the lack of words in this type, which helps her stay concentrated. She uses music on a regular basis to help her focus. “I listen to more relaxing music to get me motivated to study or do homework, some softer stuff like oldies, or classical music,” Mattson said. “Then I wont be singing to the music, it’s just background noise. I can\’t stand sitting in the quiet. Music keeps me occupied and still ready to work. If I choose more upbeat stuff, I\’m more apt to sit there and sing the song – or with techno, I would just want to get up and move and dance to it. It\’s too trippy for me to focus with it playing.”
When students are trying to get focused on exercising rather than studying, classical music isn’t always the best choice. The University of North Carolina’s department of psychology studied treadmill runners listening to both fast-paced music, slow music, and no music. The study revealed that subjects exercising to fast-paced music experienced higher breathing rates, and higher adrenaline rates than those listening to soft or no music, thus improving their workout.
This conclusion is one that many students discover on a daily basis. Listening to various styles of music motivates them to exercise. Elementary education junior Alison Grojean chooses “anything loud” and “classic rock” to get her in the mood to sweat, while microbiology senior Brian Glasby chooses his workout beats by what’s currently hot. “I work out to the Top 40 and rap,” Glasby said. “I especially like Chingy. The driving beat makes me want to work hard.”
International studies sophomore Lillian Collins said the key to using music to exercise is choosing a kind that keeps your focus off the sweating and tiredness that exercise brings. “When I\’m running I like to listen to upbeat music,” Collins said. “I like to listen to the soundtracks to High School Musical and Rent because it helps me to think about the songs and visualize the storyline instead of thinking about running. And if I\’m doing weights or ab exercises I listen to hip-hop and rap because it has a steady rhythm and is fun.”
Whether you’re running to the sounds of poor city kids singing about apartment payments, or relaxing to songs from your favorite TV show, music can be a very powerful tool. It can lift you up, calm you down, and help you focus on that 10-page paper you have to write by tomorrow morning. So next time life is too much to handle, turn on your favorite CD, sit back and imagine yourself walking down the beach with your latest celebrity crush.
After all, TV doctors lead very stressful lives, too.

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