Music at Work Relaxes and Motivates

I was sitting at my desk today when my computer suddenly started playing music.  A little Simon and Garfunkel, then some classical, and a dash of Vince Guaraldi (of Charlie Brown fame).  Funny enough, it was just what I needed at the end of a long, fast paced week (the first week back to school since winter break). 

Of course, I had pressed a random succession of keys that had accidentally opened my music player, but it got me thinking- what effect does music have on people at work, and how can we harness its powers for good?  Here’s what the pros have to say(from Elizabeth Scott, MS, of

Depending on the type of music you listen to, it can actually have a very positive mental AND physical effect on you:

  • Brain Waves: Research has shown that music with a strong beat can stimulate brainwaves to resonate in sync with the beat, with faster beats bringing sharper concentration and more alert thinking, and a slower tempo promoting a calm, meditative state.
  • Breathing and Heart Rate: With alterations in brainwaves comes changes in other bodily functions. Those governed by the autonomic nervous system, such as breathing and heart rate can also be altered by the changes music can bring. This can mean slower breathing, slower heart rate, and an activation of the relaxation response, among other things.
  • State of Mind: Music can also be used to bring a more positive state of mind, helping to keep depression and anxiety at bay. This can help prevent the stress response from wreaking havoc on the body, and can help keep creativity and optimism levels higher, bringing many other benefits.

How you can use music to relax and de-stress:

  • Music can promote relaxation of tense muscles, enabling you to easily release some of the tension you carry from a stressful day (or week).
  • Music, especially upbeat tunes, can take your mind off what stresses you, and help you feel more optimistic and positive.

And some recommendations for relaxing music?  I think this is too hard a question to answer for the masses, but these are on my playlist anytime I need to mellow out at work.  I find the fewer lyrics, the better while I’m at work, so I get less distracted. 

  • Simon & Garfunkel, 59th street bridge, or pretty much anything else they did
  • Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Count Basie, or any other 1940’s era big band
  • Vince Guaraldi, A Charlie Brown Christmas Album (yes, anytime of year)
  • Miles Davis anything
  • Fleet Foxes (newish accoustic/harmonic band from Seattle)
  • Beach Boys, Pet Sounds album
  • Debussey for Daydreamers (classical)
  • Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds
  • I Am Sam soundtrack
  • Paul Simon, Graceland

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