For Your Listening Pleasure

April 19, 2024

Francis BarraudHis Master's Voice

After writing last month’s Happy Little Thoughts newsletter (click here to subscribe if you don’t already), I’ve been thinking more about listening. Not just the metaphorical act I wrote about—who/what we listen to, how often we listen to others, if we also listen to ourselves—but the literal “what” that enters our literal ears.

Here are a few simple listening pleasures we can incorporate into our lives to boost physical and mental health.


According to, music stimulates the neurotransmitters which affect pleasure by increasing dopamine production, reducing cortisol levels, and even increasing an antibody responsible for strengthening the immune system (immunoglobulin A). Can’t get much better than that!

Even though I love music, I hadn’t been listening to it as much as I’d like—or as deliberately as I’d like. I usually have the radio on when I drive, but that can get frustrating since I have no control over what comes over the airwaves (mostly personal injury attorney ads, apparently) and I’ve been listening to podcasts while I work around the house instead of music since my iPod died in an untimely coffee-drowning accident a few years back. (Yes, yes, I know there are multiple ways to stream music, but I am Old and Set in My Ways and haven’t taken the time to master them.) So I started playing old CDs in the car (yes, my car is also old and still has a CD player Do Not Judge Me), especially ones I can sing along with. Singing has many health and mood benefits, whether or not you can carry a tune, and I love to sing.

The CDs in my collection span many decades of music listening, and hearing certain songs brings back floods of memories. If I hear Devo’s Whip It, I’m instantly transported back to tennis team practice on my high school’s courts. Listening to Broadway musical soundtracks reminds me of fun theater-going with friends, and one Rob Thomas song reminds me of walking laps on a track in Texas with my sister-in-law.

One of my new goals is to explore newer music and artists and add to my collection, in either digital or CD formats.

Nature sounds

Sounds of nature—the breeze blowing in the trees, water rushing through a creek or pouring over a waterfall, ocean waves, rain pattering on the roof, birdsong—are soothing to our nervous systems and can help to improve health and mood. Even using a mobile app which mimics nature sounds can be helpful if the real thing isn’t possible. 

When I go outside to water plants or do yardwork, I try to pay attention to the sounds around me rather than fill my ears with words or music. It’s fun trying to identify different birds by their songs, and all the little rustles and creaks hint at worlds which exist at the edges of my awareness. I forget my frustrations in curiosity, and am reminded of the connection to all the living things around me.

Voices of loved ones

I’ve still got the last voicemail my dad left on my phone, and a recording of my son’s voice when he was a preschooler. They both make me smile when I listen to them.

Next time someone you love talks, really listen! What does their voice sound like? Do they use any particular words or phrases unique to them? You never know when their voices will fall silent. One of the hardest things when my mom was dying was that she stopped talking shortly after I arrived to be with her. What I would have given to listen to her during the last two weeks of her life.

And speaking of silence…

Silence, which is never literally silent, can be incredibly beneficial, too. 

I try to sit with the quiet, but that’s when my mind gets really LOUD and chattery, and all those emotions I’ve been keeping at bay come at me. This can be a bit nerve-wracking, but eventually even monkey mind settles down. I’m guessing we (I) fill our ears with so much noise because of the discomfort we feel when outward silence allows our inner monologue to take over. Still, a bout of soaking up silence does ultimately calm me down.

Whether you choose silence or music, loved ones’ voices or nature sounds, I hope whatever you listen to contributes to a happier, healthier day!

What are some things you love listening to?

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  1. Kathy this post is certainly one I needed to read. Is it not amazing how even in the quiet we hear a clock tick or perhaps a furnace click on (if indoors)...outside the birds and the chattering squirrels keep me well tuned. Like you music is the top of my list . Thinking we are most likely the same vintage. Cd's are still my go to in my old 2011 honda civic which by the way is a stick shift - 5 speed. Thanks for reminding me to take note and stop and pay attention to the quiet. Have a wonderful week friend. Hugs!

    1. Debbie--What are some of the CDs you listen to in the car? I've been listening to some 80s/90s country--Trisha Yearwood, Mary-Chapin Carpenter, Chely Wright. Funny, because I never listen to current country anymore.

      My car is one year older, but it does have automatic transmission! My husband tried to teach me to drive stick before we were married and let us say that it did not go well ;)