They say music is medicine for the mind, body, and soul. Humans throughout time, of every age, have listened, made, and enjoyed music. It lifts us up and makes us happy, or sometimes sad; it brings tears of jubilation and sadness to our eyes and our hearts. Music is something we all can savor and be involved in, whether we play an instrument, sing, dance, or just listen for enjoyment. But does it have the power to heal, or relieve stress, and what is the science behind the claims? Several studies have been carried out into the powers of music and stress relief, and how it helps our brain.
Listening to music may have the capacity to:
- Decrease anxiety and stress: A study of 63 students carried out in 2004 revealed those listening to (Mozart) music had lower levels of stress and higher levels of tranquility compared to other relaxation techniques such as reading or New Age music. (1)
- Reduce blood pressure: Listening to classical music by Mozart or Strauss for as little as 25 minutes may lower blood pressure and heart rate compared to resting in silence. (2)
- Improve the quality of sleep: Researchers analyzing the effectiveness of music and sleep found, in a study of 94 students, that listening to music to aid sleep was significantly better than listening to an audiobook, which showed no significant improvements. (3)
- Enhance mood: Music is an effective remedy to raise mood levels and fight against depression and anxiety. (4)
- May boost mental alertness, and memory: Some studies suggest listening to music doesn’t help memory while learning, however, some evidence has shown ‘lost’ memories may be recovered when listening to music. (5,6)
How Music Connects With Our Brain
As music travels through the ears and tap-dances into the brain it has to go through a complicated series of events.
When music is made the outer ear is penetrated by sound waves from an instrument or a sound system such as a radio player. Sound waves in the middle-ear cause the eardrum and tiny bones to vibrate. These impulses are passed to the internal ear. The cochlea, part of the inner ear, is filled with 20,000-30,000 tiny hair cells of various sizes that respond to different tones and pitches.
Vibrations are converted into electric signals via the cochlear nervous system. Electronic signals are carried into the brain by nerve cells called neurons and pass down the cochlear nervous system to the cerebral cortex of the brain – a highly complex part of the brain that works like a supercomputer. Other areas of the brain join in and analyze various elements within the music such as rhythm, pitch, and dynamics, while others fire up emotional responses and memory.
The result is our enjoyment, relaxation (and sometimes displeasure) of the melodies we hear. (7)
Music – The Mozart Effect
Researchers have found that music can have a profound influence on both the body and mind. This has sometimes been called ‘The Mozart Effect’.
In one clinical study of 10 critically ill postoperative patients, researchers found that music can reduce stress response even when patients are not conscious.
Half the patients were randomly assigned to wear headphones that played slow movements from Mozart piano sonatas, while the other half wore headphones that did not play music. Nurses reported that those who heard music had lower blood pressures and heart rates due to reduced levels of stress hormones. (8)
Listening to music while wearing headphones may be particularly beneficial when trying to concentrate. Blocking outside noise and distractions while quietly listening to music can help you relax and stay more focused.
People who exercise often listen to music through headphones. This may be to ease monotony or boredom, for example, during a long grueling run, or as a distraction to the exertions of exercise.
There are dangers of permanent damage to our hearing while listening to music at high decibel levels over continuous periods. Try to keep the volume moderate low and for shorter periods. The volume recommendation for listening to music is around 80 decibels. (9)
Music And Meditation
Other types of music have been shown to have health benefits. For relaxation and stress management, slower-paced melodies can ease your mind and relax your muscles, while releasing tension. High tempo tunes can make you feel more vigilant and focus better, and upbeat music may make you feel more optimistic about life. (10)
Create The Right Setting
For stress and anxiety relief, try listening to some relaxing music while meditating. Create the correct setting and choose your music. This song in particular has been said, can reduce anxiety by up to 65 percent. (11)
How To Use Music For Mediation
- To give your body and mind a head-start before meditation, use Be Serene instant relief. Apply topically to wrists and temples and feel a sense of calm take over as the highly effective and proven natural ingredients get to work.
- Pick out your favorite relaxing music. Slow tempo, usually without lyrics, which can be distracting. The music will absorb into your conscious mind and slow it down.
- Be comfortable. Find your most comfortable position, whether it’s sitting or lying down. Relax eyes, muscles, shoulders, face, and breathe gently. through your nose, expanding your belly rather than your chest, then exhale through your mouth.
- Concentrate on the music. Direct your focus on the current moment, the sound of the music, and the feelings in your body that the music evokes. Try to feel it.
- Continue this practice for around 20 minutes. Gently direct thoughts towards the sound of the music. The goal of this practice is to quiet your mind and fully immerse yourself.
Whatever type of melody or song you decide to listen to, be it Mozart, other forms of classical, relaxing spa, the sounds of nature, or your favorite pop or rock, music has the power to heal, enlighten, and lift us. Through relaxation, meditation, or during activity, enjoy the benefits that music has to give.