Music has been used to reduce anxiety and help relieve pain since biblical times. Recent research, however, has studied the ability of certain music to reduce anxiety and put the body into a state of relaxation. In a 2009 study, 372 patients set to undergo surgery were divided into 2 groups. One group was given the drug midazolam while the other group listened to relaxing music. The results showed that those in the music group had a greater decline in anxiety than those who took the drug.
Learn about more studies about how music affects your physiology by watching this video:
Why You Should Do This
For those who suffer from chronic anxiety, you know that being anxious just plain sucks. So of course, anything that reduces that uncomfortable feeling is worth doing. But there are other reasons why you should incorporate activities that induce calm and relaxation into your regular daily routine as well. Here are a few.
Anxiety and Stress Shuts Down the Body’s Ability to Heal and Repair Itself
The body is made to repair and heal itself, but when you think fearful or negative thoughts, a cascade of stress hormones get released into your bloodstream, and these hormones suppress the immune system. A little bit of stress and anxiety won’t hurt you, but prolonged states of fear and stress wreak havoc on the body.
When you’re anxious and fearful, one of the hormones that gets released is cortisol. Cortisol causes a lot of changes, including increased blood sugar, suppressed immune function, gastrointestinal problems, narrowed arteries and increased blood pressure, decreased sex hormones, and fatigue. When you relax, the parasympathetic nervous system takes over, and your body’s ability to function and heal itself increases dramatically.
Anxiety and Stress Reduces Your Brain’s Ability to Access Short-Term Memories
Anxiety and stress prevent your brain from thinking clearly. For one thing, it reduces your short-term memory. A study published in Nature found that rats who received electric shocks (fear) forgot how to travel through their maze. Another study showed that people who had prolonged stress had less grey matter in 3 regions of their brains.
Anxiety and Stress Reduces Sex Drive
Fear and anxiety play havoc with the sex hormones of testosterone, estrogen, and those responsible for sperm production and ovulation. Prolonged anxiety can lead to erectile dysfunction, abnormal mentrual cycles, problems conceiving, and decreased sex drive.
Anxiety and Stress Hastens the Aging Process by Shortening Telomeres
The length of telomeres is associated with how long cells live. Shorter telomeres = shorter lifespan. This study showed that psychological life stress led to increased telomere shortening. The study concluded that “Women with the highest levels of perceived stress have telomeres shorter on average by the equivalent of at least one decade of additional aging compared to low stress women. These findings have implications for understanding how, at the cellular level, stress may promote earlier onset of age-related diseases.”
Scientists Test the Most Relaxing Music
If you watched the video at the beginning of this article, you learned about some studies that showed listening to Mozart reduced anxiety levels better than other types of music. Other studies have shown that soft jazz reduces anxiety significantly.
British neuroscientists at Mindlab International conducted a study to see which songs were most effective at reducing anxiety. They studied participants who attempted to solve difficult puzzles as quickly as possible while connected to sensors. The puzzles induced a certain level of stress, and participants listened to different songs while researchers measured brain activity as well as heart rate, blood pressure, and rate of breathing.
The song “Weightless” by Marconi Union proved to be the most relaxing tune with an amazing 65 percent reduction in participants’ overall anxiety, and a 35 percent reduction in their usual physiological resting rates. Studies found Weightless was 11 per cent more relaxing than any other song.
Lyz Cooper, founder of the British Academy of Sound Therapy, says “the song contains a sustaining rhythm that starts at 60 beats per minute and gradually slows to around 50. While listening, your heart rate gradually comes to match that beat” in a phenomenon called ‘entrainment’.”
The harmonic intervals have been chosen to create a feeling of euphoria and comfort.
‘And there is no repeating melody, which allows your brain to completely switch off because you are no longer trying to predict what is coming next. Instead, there are random chimes, which helps to induce a deeper sense of relaxation.
Here are 10 songs researchers have found to be the most calming:
- Weightless by Marconi Union (see above video)
- Airstream by Electra
- DJ Shah – Mellomaniac (Chillout Mix)
- Enya – Watermark
- Coldplay – Strawberry Swing
- Barcelona – Please Don’t Go
- All Saints – Pure Shores
- Adele – Someone Like You
- Mozart – Canzonetta Sull’aria
- Cafe del Mar – We Can Fly
Does music help you calm down? What are your favorite calming songs? Share in the comments below.