In the modern world, we often find ourselves in situations where stress can take control of our mind and body, affecting our mood, wellness, and interactions with others. Whether you live a relatively laid back, stress-free lifestyle or you find that stress negatively impacts your day to day life, we will all arrive in a moment during our lifetime where we need to learn how to understand and deal with stress.
There have been numerous studies on the effect that listening to music can have on both stress levels and mood. This research has commonly supported the incredibly positive change that can be achieved when incorporating music listening into various day to day activities as well as some more challenging unusual tasks.
Which genre should I listen to?
Of course, not all genres of music will have the same emotional effect on individual listeners. Factors such as musical genre preference and the listener’s current mood will affect how music is received. However, it has been suggested that stress levels can still be reduced even if you don’t particularly like the music you are listening to. For example, you may not be the biggest fan of heavy metal but listening in a stressful situation could still help to reduce your overall stress levels.
Jazz and Classical music are said to be the most effective across the board in reducing stress levels, improving mood, and even increasing brain function. Cortisol is a stress hormone released in the body to help in dealing with a stressful situation. For example, in history, stresses were more likely to come from escaping a predator. This stress hormone tells the body to send more energy to your muscles helping you to run away faster. Now, it’s not too often in modern times that we find ourselves running from predators but the same theory still applies. Research has shown that Classical music can effectively lower levels of stress hormones such as cortisone and cortisol. You may also be happy to know that it is not just classical music that can have a positive effect on your sleep. “Weightless” by Marconi Union is said to be one of the most relaxing songs ever created.
How does it work?
There are many possible reasons why listening to music can help to reduce stress levels and improve mood. Perhaps the most obvious is its ability to drown out surrounding irritating noises, distractions, or negativity. Simply putting on some headphones and pressing play can help your focus and prevent you from becoming distracted by conversations going on around you for example.
Have you ever felt that need to drive fast whilst listening to high tempo music in the car? This is a prime example of how music can provoke certain emotions and reactions in the human body. Observed with an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, fast music of 120-130 beats per minute can increase anxiety. Now let’s think about the opposite scenario…low tempo music of about 50-60 beats per minute can alone reduce the heart rate and blood pressure. Low tempo music that incorporates softly rounded melodies along with elements of nature such as rain, birds, or waves can have even more of an impact, helping to slow your breathing and reduce the release of those dreaded stress hormones.
How does music help during meditation?
Shutting out the distractions around you and focusing on your breathing can be challenging if you are perhaps in a noisy, or heavy traffic environment. During meditation, listening to music can give you a helping hand in shutting out those irritating distractions. When listening to music during meditation, many find that the endless chatter usually going on inside the brain will begin to fade and thoughtlessness can be achieved, in turn bringing you closer to that meditative state you want to reach. Although music can be an incredible aid to all levels, it can be particularly helpful to those who are new to meditation and need that extra bit of help when trying to focus.
As we said before, you should find your own preference when it comes to meditation music. However, there are of course some commonly utilized types of music for meditation such as instrumental tracks, chanting, and ambient noise including rain and waterfall sounds. If you are new to meditation you may find that you find yourself thinking about the music too much. You should try to focus on the feelings in your body that the music evokes rather than the music itself.
According to google trends there has been a significant increase in people seeking out meditation music since the early 2000’s and rightly so. With a combination of increased educational resources regarding the benefit of meditation along with pretty much any music you could ever want available online, sites such as youtube have become great platforms for sourcing a perfect meditation playlist.
How else can music benefit me?
Although stress reduction is the focus of many studies and much research in recent years, there are other benefits that music can have on both your body and mind.
Improves Exercise – It has been proven that listening to music whilst exercising can promote incredible improvements in not only mental stimulation but physical as well. This in turn increases overall performance. Music has also been proven to be a huge motivator when it comes to aerobic exercise.
Eases Pain & Promotes Healing – Similarly to meditation, music listening can be a great tool when it comes to injury or surgery recovery. Plenty of studies have shown that patients who incorporated music into their care program felt less pain and had a more positive recovery process.
Improves Memory – Music listening has shown to be not only an incredibly effective way to prevent memory loss but also a tool to retrieve lost memories. The melody and rhythm within music can help our brains to create patterns that in turn improve recollection and retainment of memories.
Improved Intimacy & Relationships – When used in conjunction with meditation, music listening can promote improvements in not only your relationships with friends, families, colleagues, and partners but can also help to improve intimacy. Music & meditation together can help you understand, recognize, and deal with emotions that you have been struggling with.
Improves eating habits – It may be surprising to know that listening to music and meditation can actually have a positive impact on eating habits. It is common knowledge that emotions such as sadness and conditions such as depression can encourage overeating or comfort eating. Meditation and music can help you to manage these emotions without the help of food. Music can also help you to relax whilst eating, lowering your heart rate and in turn the speed at which you are eating. This is likely to make you fuller faster and therefore eat less.
Improves sleep – The parasympathetic nervous system affects how you relax and prepare for sleep. Studies have shown that this system is positively affected, promoting a more restful and consistent sleep in those who listen to about 40-45 minutes of relaxing music before bed. The effectiveness of this theory really does depend on the type of music you listen to.
In conclusion, whatever the activity or goal, there is no denying that music can have an incredibly positive impact on our lives when utilized correctly. For more information check out 15 Incredible Ways Music Affects Our Lives & Our Brains