Music Therapy

8 Ways To De-Stress With Music At Home

8 Ways To De-Stress with Music at Home

I recently facilitated a workshop for Capilano University alumni and students as part of the CapUConnect Series. This unique opportunity inspired me to write the following blog post. The Capilano Alumni Association contacted me to see if I would create a workshop for people to learn helpful ways to de-stress with music. In this blog, I talk about 8 ways to use music at home for your health and well-being.

Focusing on our health has never been so crucial, as we live through a pandemic. For many of us, it has disrupted, awakened, and shifted the way we live our lives.

1. Home-Made Musical Instrument Ideas

  • Did you know that you don’t have to play ‘real’ instruments to make music? Making music can happen just by exploring different sounds, rhythms, and objects in our environment. Experimenting with sounds should not only be for kids but adults too. You will begin to discover that we can use almost anything to make music. Here are some examples below:
  • Shaker
    • made out of seeds/rice/beans or beads, placed in a film canister/pill bottle/small tin box.
  • Rainmaker
    • 2 Pringles cans (or other tube-like canisters) to join together, 1 handful of filler material (seeds, rice, beans, or beads), 12 or more small nails or tinfoil coiled up to slow the filler material, and duct tape
  • Glass xylophone
    • 4-8 Glasses, 1 spoon, water (filling the glasses with differing degrees of water will create higher or lower pitches when tapped with a spoon)
  • Box Harp
    • 1 box, 6-10 rubber bands
  • Flute
    • Plastic or glass bottle with small opening and blow into the opening of the bottle
  • Drums
  • Body Percussion
    • Clapping, tapping feet, snapping fingers, and making rhythm on different parts of our body. 
  • Cups

2. Sound Environment Meditation

Go outside and experience the beauty of your natural surroundings. By taking a moment to listen, we can build awareness of the ambient soundtrack of daily life. Our body, mind and spirit resonate with the sight of flowers, sound of birds, feeling of the breeze. These experiences wake up our inner being and help to set our lives into a more natural rhythm. Find a comfortable position sitting or lying down and/or find a steady walking pace as you go for a walk. Begin with a few deep breaths, breathing deep into the belly, to help you relax and to bring you to the sensations of the present moment. Notice how your body feels, as well as the activity of your mind and emotions. Experience whatever is present without resisting anything or trying to change it.  Now bring your awareness to everything you can experience in your surroundings. Notice the sounds around you — birds, bees, crickets, flowing water, traffic, footsteps, people’s voices, dogs barking. Listen to the symphony of nature.  Whenever your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the sounds and sensations of being in nature. At times both awareness of the sensations from the environment and thoughts will be present. That’s fine, just easily favour the experiences of nature. 

As you open your ears to your sound environment, you can see where your attention is naturally drawn, or purposefully scan for different experiences. You can also focus on one experience and notice the experience in greater detail. If it is a bird’s song — notice the quality of the sound — as if you are going more deeply into the sound, simply notice the quality of it and how it affects you.

3. Life Review

Caution: Please be aware, this activity may trigger emotions. If necessary, please consider contacting a certified music therapist or connecting with your counsellor, psychologist or loved one to support you during this self-reflective journey. If feelings come to the surface, allow yourself permission to feel them. Don’t be afraid to cry. It takes a strong person to cry. In fact, crying is good for us and is a natural and effective way to reduce stress. A study from the University of Minnesota (Dr. William Frey), found that crying (triggered by emotions) improves the mood of 88% of people and it can also help with healing, boosting immunity and reducing levels of anger and stress. 

For this musical project, I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on your life journey thus far. Begin to think about your milestones, turning points or any significant events that have occurred. Grab a notebook and write down 5 significant moments or periods in your life. This may include, graduation, high school, young adulthood, a new birth, marriage, a passing of a loved one, an illness, recovery, etc. Identify the feel of each stage and explore music that may represent the stage. Make today/current times your last stage. It may be music that was significant during each stage or a new piece of music that captures the emotional feelings of the stage. 

After choosing 5 pieces of music to represent different phases of your life, take out your journal and write about why you chose these songs. Make a playlist or a CD of the selections. Listen to the completed playlist in one setting and journal about the whole experience. I highly recommend you to listen to your playlist with a loved one if you are feeling fragile and discuss the significance of each song. Feel proud of your journey and all you have accomplished and overcome.

4. Create Purposeful Playlist

7 Key Steps to Put Together your Purposeful Playlist: for Work, for Sport, for Home, for Life

Designed by Jennifer Buchanan, JB Music Therapy
  1. unpack what you really need – what is your desired outcome. If you are going through a difficult transition or are feeling stuck I recommend working with a psychologist, counsellor, music therapist to help you identify your key goal.
  2. title your playlist the feeling you hope to achieve and the behaviour you hope to change.
  3. only put songs in that playlist that evoke the feelings you aim for, and remove all songs that don’t strike the right chord.
  4. listen at specific  time (s) of the day – not all day. 20 minutes of intentional music listening, at the right time, can help. Assess when you need a boost – waking up, driving to work, driving home, in the evening.  You may need different playlists for different times of the day.
  5. use a good sound source. The quality of sound contributes to your feelings of health and enjoyment.
  6. stay open to new music. There are some great applications like Songza, Apple Music and Spotify that can help you explore new music.
  7. if making a playlist for others – never make assumptions.  If you are working with someone who is not able to communicate for themselves (ie. due to stroke or dementia) connect with your local music therapist for help to ensure the best possible, and safest music choices, are made.

5. Learn A New Instrument

If you are new to learning an instrument ukulele or piano may be the best place to start.

6. Create A Music Club

Instead of a “book club” create a music club. Create a music club on Zoom and use the shared screen and sound function to listen to music with friends and family. Share and listen to your favourite songs as a group and talk about memories, thoughts and emotions associated with different songs. 

7. Dance To Music

Close your blinds or keep them open and dance to your favourite songs. Start simple by moving one body part at a time, such as your hands, and slowly incorporate more parts of your body. Be silly and have fun with it!

8. Fill-in-the-blank/Madlib Songwriting

Following the template of the song “With A Little Help From My Friends” by the Beatles, make your own new version of the song. How have you been coping during Covid? What have you been doing to keep yourself busy? What will you do when Covid restrictions are lifted? Allow yourself this time to be creative! Don’t worry about rhyming, just allow the words to flow out. Feel free to share your version with us at

Thank you for your support!

We appreciate you taking the time to read our very first blog. Please feel free to email us with any questions you may have. Stay strong my fellow beings. We are in this together!
Written by Kayla Turnbull, BMT, MTA

Leave a Reply