Can listening to music reduce stress? Studies, benefits and genres

Listening to your favorite music may have more health benefits than you realize. Here’s how songs can reduce stress and help you heal.

It’s only when we forget our headphones that we realize how much we rely on music to get us through the day. Our favorite music seems capable of pumping us up before an important moment, calming us down when we’re upset, and pretty much everything in between.

But is there actually a scientific explanation for this? As it turns out, yes!

Music has been widely studied and revered throughout human history for its ability to entertain and I treat. Countless experts have researched how listening to music can potentially have a therapeutic effect on a range of mental and physical health conditions or simply as a way to cope with everyday life.

Modern research shows that music has significant power to help reduce stress and anxiety, relieve pain and improve focus among many other benefits.

Stress – feeling emotionally strained, overwhelmed or feeling like we can’t cope – affects us mentally and physically.

Stress has a biological effect that causes your body to release specific hormones and chemicals that activate your brain in certain ways. For example, when we are highly stressed, our heart rate and blood pressure can increase and our adrenal glands begin to produce cortisol, also known as the ‘stress hormone’.

In the short term, cortisol can help us find the focus and energy we need to deal with a difficult situation, but when the body is exposed to excess cortisol over an extended period of time, it causes constant, debilitating states of struggle , escape or freeze . Continued or chronic stress can lead to the development of anxiety disorder, depression, chronic pain, and more.

Throughout time and space, music has been a huge success as a stress reliever. Although certain types of music, such as classical and ambient, have long been studied for their calming effects, listening to your favorite music from any genre also has benefits.

A 2020 review of music and stress research suggests that listening to music can:

  • decrease heart rate and cortisol levels
  • release endorphins and improve our sense of well-being
  • they distract us, reducing levels of physical and emotional stress
  • reduce stress-related symptoms, whether used in a clinical setting or in everyday life

Most research on the effects of music on health focuses on its ability to calm us and relieve stress. In recent years, this research has expanded in exciting and surprising new directions.

Some recent findings include the following:

  • Decreased cortisol levels. A recent 2021 study found that adults who listened to both personal and neutral music selections, at home and in a laboratory setting, had significantly “reduced cortisol levels.” This was found regardless of the type of music.
  • Benefits in mental health treatment. A review of 349 studies on the usefulness of music as a mental health treatment for conditions including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression found that 68.5% of music interventions had positive outcomes.
  • Reduced burnout. Music therapy also had a significant benefit in preventing burnout in operating room staff. 6 weeks old study showed that after having access to 30-minute music listening sessions every day at work for a month, staff reported reduced levels of stress and less emotional exhaustion.
  • It helps you sleep. 62% of respondents to a 2018 survey reported using music (of various genres) to help them sleep, mostly because it relaxes them and distracts them from everyday stressors. People who used music less were More ▼ is likely to have poorer sleep quality.
  • Reduced depression. Listening to music or music therapy reduces levels of depression, according to a 2017 reviewand is associated with increased confidence and motivation, especially in group settings.
  • Reduced anxiety in children. A 2021 review of articles from 2009 to 2019 found that music significantly reduced children’s anxiety before and during medical procedures.
  • Helping people cope with the pandemic. A research of over 5,600 people from 11 countries showed that music has played a very important role during the COVID-19 pandemic, helping people cope during isolation and achieve their well-being goals regardless of culture, age and gender .
  • Improved quality of life with Alzheimer’s disease. Especially when tested in the form of personal relaxation playlists, research shows that music interventions can have a positive effect on the behavior and cognition of people with Alzheimer’s disease, improving quality of life.

Meditation is an ancient tradition that is practiced in cultures around the world and is an integral part of some religions and types of yoga. There are many types of mediation, and people use some types to help heal mental and physical ailments.

Usually, meditation aims to focus, center, calm or direct your attention. It can also help relax our bodies. So it might go well with music for some people.

Often, the music used for meditation has a slow tempo, which can lower the heart rate and also lower anxiety and stress levels. Guided meditation includes music with a narrator or speaker who directs your energy flow and focus or offers positive affirmations.

Music therapy is different than just listening to music, although listening is a big part of it!

Music therapists work with a variety of patients of all ages. Like other forms of therapy, including art therapy, music therapists schedule individual sessions to help you achieve your goals.

Music therapy can include purposeful listening to music, playing and composing music, and writing songs, among other activities. These types of “purposeful” interactions with music can help you work through emotions or issues that are troubling you, promote positive feelings, and even help with speech or physical therapy.

A 2015 study compared the effects of music therapy with a therapist versus music medicine (where music is played without a therapist) among people with cancer. Although all listening to music showed positive results, 77% of patients preferred music therapy sessions to simply listening to music alone.

Research shows that music can help relieve both chronic pain and post-surgery pain:

  • Research shows that listening to “self-selected, pleasant, familiar music” reduces pain in people with fibromyalgia.
  • On a small scale 2017 studylistening to music on headphones while under local or general anesthesia can lower cortisol levels during surgery and reduce post-operative pain and stress.

How it works? Scientists i believe the effect may be the result of music actually shifting brain activity away from patterns of pain-related connectivity, as well as creating positive emotions and offering distraction.

Music is not limited to helping physically pain. Stress also causes emotional and psychological pain that music can help alleviate.

You may have found yourself searching for “learning playlists” on Spotify or YouTube. Well, it turns out there’s a reason millions of other people stream these playlists too!

Listening to music has been shown to improve focus on certain tasks, especially if the task is more complex. Music can also help sharpen our brain’s ability to remember information and make connections.

In a recent experiment, participants were asked to press a button every time the hand of a special clock began to move. The authors found that when people listened to their preferred background music while performing this “low attentional maintenance task,” their minds wandered less and they were more focused compared to those without music.

Anxiety, stress and pain often go together. Music can be one way to deal with them and their problems.

As shown by some of the research discussed earlier, music can help reduce anxiety in both adults and children before and during medical procedures.

In one study of over 950 critically ill patients, 30 minutes of music therapy per day was consistently associated with lower levels of anxiety and stress. Music’s ability to reduce biological stress responses such as heart rate and cortisol levels also helps manage anxiety.

The sympathetic and parasympathetic parts of your central nervous system are involuntary or automatic, meaning they work without you having to think about them.

Doctors may call the parasympathetic side “rest and digest” because it takes care of things when the body is at rest, while the sympathetic side is the “fight or flight” side in charge of the body in motion.

When we are thrown into a stressful situation, it is difficult to calm down and stay grounded. Deep breathing is one way to activate the parasympathetic nervous system to go back to “rest and digest.”

one study shows that certain types of music can also be a way to more quickly reactivate the parasympathetic nervous system after a period of elevated heart rate, such as after exercise.

Certain genres of music without lyrics, such as classical and ambient, have historically been the focus of most research on music and stress. Although there is evidence that they can reduce stress and anxiety, this does not mean that they are “better” than other genres of music.

For many of the studies mentioned in this article, listening to music involved multiple genres or songs selected from both participants and researchers. In fact, the American Music Therapy Association states that “All styles of music can be useful in effecting change in the life of a client or patient.”

We also use different types of music for different purposes. Because we all have special relationships with our favorite songs and genres, we can use them to evoke certain emotions and feelings unique to that relationship. For example:

  • Classical music is associated with a calming, soothing effect.
  • Rap music can be uplifting and motivating when you’re in a bad mood or dealing with difficult life circumstances.
  • Heavy metal music can “enhance identity development” and help you adjust better.

Musicians, researchers and music therapists actually claim to have created the ‘most relaxing’ song ever called ‘Weightless’. But you’ll have to decide for yourself.

Listening to your favorite music has more benefits than you might think. It is also safe, cost-effective and widely available.

Music is certainly not a magic cure, nor is it a substitute for therapy, medication, surgery, or other medical treatments. But music i can to be an important element of your well-being and daily self-care, as well as a helpful partner in dealing with more acute health conditions.

Music listening, therapy and interventions have many benefits such as:

  • reduced stress and anxiety
  • better mood
  • reduced pain
  • improved sleep
  • sharp focus or memory
  • relaxing your body and aiding meditation
  • help with speech or physical therapy
  • promoting community and a sense of togetherness

Research into the healing and stress-relieving properties of music continues, and sometimes with mixed results. But in the end, perhaps the most important takeaway is: keep listening!

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