IN A STUDY AT Cornell University, Gary
Evans played a recording of common office noises to forty clerical
workers while they worked: typing, phones ringing, random conversations.
Another forty clerical workers did not have to listen to it.
He found the first group became accustomed
to the extra sound and weren't bothered by it after awhile. But
when he tested them, he found they had higher levels of the stress
hormone, epinephrine. They didn't think they were bothered,
but they had a higher baseline level of stress.
Sound effects your level of stress hormones,
for better or worse. Close a window if there is a leafblower
going outside. Or turn on some soothing music. Even the sounds
of birds are now available on tape or CD. Playing quietly in
the background, it can have a small but noticeable effect on
your feelings of security and ease.
In a study of 144 people, including teenagers
and adults, the researchers took a psychological profile before
and again after listening to fifteen minutes of music. Each person
listened to one of four different types of music one kind
per week in a random order. The four kinds were classical, New
Age, designer, and grunge rock (the study was conducted in 1997).
The participants were tested on a variety of psychological measurements
before and after listening to the music.
Listening to designer music (designed to
be easy to listen to, lighthearted and upbeat) made them feel
more relaxed and caring. It also increased their feelings of
mental clarity and vigor. Grunge rock had exactly the opposite
effect. The New Age and classical music produced mixed results.
If you want to feel more relaxed, more
caring, mentally clearer and more vigorous, you know what to
do. It is a very simple thing to do that probably won't interfere
with anything else you're doing.
Researchers from McGill University and
Massachusetts General Hospital asked ten musicians what music
they loved so much it gave them chills. Then they were each given
PET scans while listening to one of four different things: Their
favorite music, silence, general noise, or other music. Here's
the interesting thing: Other music was sometimes pleasurable
to them, but only the music they loved caused their brains
to respond the same way as sex.
In other words, the parts of the brain
that respond to sex, causing you to feel great pleasure, also
respond to music you love.
I have no specific recommendations here
except to be aware that sounds or the lack thereof can have an
effect on your anxiety level, so pay attention to it and improve
it as you can.
Change background sounds.