This is the article I wrote for the current Current, Etc:
There are many uses for ambient sound. Sometimes one requires white noise to drown out unwanted distractions (dogs barking down the street, downstairs neighbor partying all night long, etc). Ambient music produces a satisfying background atmosphere for studying or work (I’m listening to somafm’s “Drone Zone” station as I type this article). Studies show that music can modify your mood (duh! like we need a study to tell us that!) in pretty much any way you wish your mood to be altered.
As we approach the one year anniversary of the Great Wind, many of us Joplinites will be feeling the pangs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or at the very least, some heightened storm sensitivity as we overcome this spring’s turbulent weather upsets. I’d like to give you a few ideas on how to use ambient music (or any sound that calms you personally) to create an overall sense of wellbeing. With any of these soundscapes, while you are listening, practice deep breathing and concentrate on imagery or feelings of calm. Try to let this be a space where worry is not allowed to enter (it will still try, but with the following sounds in your ears, anxiety will fear to tread in your placid brainspace).
*Make a mix: This is my go-to answer for everything, and it really works for me. If you are willing to put in the time of finding a handful of songs that soothe you and composing them into a mix for your phone or iPod, this will be the most effective stress-reducer because the more you listen to your personalized mix, the more ingrained the calming effect will become as you create specific associations with your distinct mix of tranquility. If you can get your mix on your phone, you will have the added benefit of having it available whenever you need it.
*Find ambient radio stations online: A few great ones can be found on digitallyimported.com and somafm.com. Pandora.com is a great way to personalize your listening experience (If you’ve never used Pandora, it works by creating a station for you based on a song or artist you choose. To personalize your station further, you input “thumbs-up” or “thumbs-down” data for the songs played on your station. If you don’t know where to start with ambient music, try basing a station on “Brian Eno”, the King of Ambient Sound.).
*Listen to nature: If you’re not able to get to a place that sounds calm naturally, I recommend naturespace.com (there’s also an app). This site has many high quality (seriously, the sounds are fantastic!) recordings of any type of nature that relaxes you. I also sometimes record flora and fauna on my phone’s voice recorder for later listening enjoyment.
The main thing to remember in times of stress is that we DO have some modicum of control over our moods. We CAN create an atmosphere of tranquility for ourselves to feel okay in our uncertain world. We are survivors, each and every one of us.