Therapist

Songs to listen to relax

The 30 most relaxing songs ever have been revealed, according to Brits Relaxing songs

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By Sofia Rizzi

A recent survey has ranked the top 30 songs which keep Brits calm, and the results show pop ballads come out on top.

At Smooth Radio, we’re all about the most relaxing music. And a new poll of 2,000 Brits has revealed some interesting facts about how we unwind using music.

The study, commissioned by Rescue Remedy, has shown that over 50% of British adults believe listening to songs help them to feel ‘less worried’.

Coming out on the top of the list of best songs to keep us calm was Louis Armstrong’s ‘What A Wonderful World’, followed by The Beatles’ ‘Let It Be’, and Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s ‘Your Song’ at No. 3.

Sandra Niland, Rescue Remedy’s brand manager, said: “It’s clear from the research that our moods and music are closely linked.

“Today’s hectic and ‘always on’ lifestyle can quickly get on top of us and everyday things from the commute to managing a balance of work, family and social life can seem overwhelming.”

She added: “Music can have a big impact on managing moods.”

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The full Top 30:

1. Louis Armstrong – What A Wonderful World
2. The Beatles – Let It Be
3. Elton John – Your Song
4. Adele – Someone Like You
5. Adele – Hello
6. Coldplay – Fix You
7. Aretha Franklin – I Say A Little Prayer
8. Enya – Orinoco Flow
9. Cat Stevens – Morning Has Broken
10. U2 – Beautiful Day
11. Dido – White Flag
12. Keane – Somewhere Only We Know
13. Ed Sheeran – Thinking Out Loud
14. Bob Dylan – Lay, Lady Lay
15. Eagles – Peaceful Easy Feeling
16. Norah Jones – Come Away With Me
17. Bobby McFerrin – Don’t Worry Be Happy
18. Coldplay – The Scientist
19. Simon And Garfunkel – America
20. The Jackson 5 – I’ll Be There
21. David Gray – Babylon
22. Maroon 5 – She Will Be Loved
23. Sam Smith – Lay Me Down
24. Katie Melua – Nine Million Bicycles
25. Ed Sheeran – The A Team
26. All Saints – Pure Shores
27. Lily Allen – Smile
28. Norah Jones – Don’t Know Why
29. Corrine Bailey Rae – Put Your Records On
30. Lana Del Rey – Summertime Sadness

On top of this, the study found that one in four Brits said they listen to songs to help them sleep and on their daily commute, concluding that we listen to 56 songs on average a week.

Listening to this music evoked emotions in listeners including feeling ‘positive’, ‘motivated’ and ‘happy’.

Niland added: “We’re encouraging Brits to tune into their inner positive playlist and relate music to feelings of calm and relaxation.”

It’s official, and it’s backed by science: There is a song that now enjoys the title of being the most relaxing song ever produced.

Studies have consistently shown that music can have an enormous impact on emotional and physical health, positively affecting performance, mood, self-expression and self-esteem. 

Sound therapists and Manchester band Marconi Union teamed up to produce the quintessential relaxation track using proven elements of scientific theory. The song they created is ‘Weightless’ and research by the British Academy of Sound Therapy found that it was able to lower blood pressure, slow heart rate and reduce cortisol (the stress hormone) at unprecedented rates.

‘Weightless’ is eight minutes long but the ride is a blissful one.

Feelings of euphoria and comfort are created by deliberately chosen gaps in the notes. The song features guitar, piano and electronic samples of natural landscapes and other elements that have been scientifically proven to induce relaxation. 

It begins at 60 beats per minute then gradually slows to around 50, at which time the listener’s heartbeat automatically falls into line with the beat. This process is known as entrainment and it takes about five minutes for this to start, explaining why the song had to be a reasonably lengthy one. According to Lyz Cooper, founder of the British Academy of Sound Therapy, the gentle slowing brings calm to the body, shifting the heart, respiration, blood pressure and brainwaves into a deeply relaxed state.

The absence of repetitive melodies prevents the brain from trying to predict what comes next, allowing the brain to essentially ‘switch off’.

Studies found that ‘Weightless’ was 11% more relaxing than any other song, outdoing the likes of Mozart, Enya and Coldplay. The song dropped overall anxiety rates by 65%, bringing participants to a level 35 % lower than their usual resting rate. The relaxation effect was evident even though participants were given a stressful task to complete in within a stressful time constraint.

Dr. David Lewis-Hodgson, Director of Research at Mindlab International, who conducted the study, explained the research showed that, ‘Weightless was so effective, many women became drowsy and I would advise against driving while listening to the song because it could be dangerous.’

The song was found to be more relaxing than a massage, a walk or a cup of tea.

The top 10 list of most relaxing songs is:

  • 1. Weightless (Marconi Union)
  • 2. Electra (Airstream)
  • 3. Mellomaniac (DJ Shah – Chill Out Mix)
  • 4. Watermark (Enya)
  • 5. Strawberry Swing (Coldplay)
  • 6. Please Don’t Go (Barcelona)
  • 7. Pure Shores (All Saints
  • 8. Someone Like You (Adele)
  • 9. Canzonetta Sull’aria (Mozart)
  • 10. We Can Fly (Café Del Mar).

Click here to listen to ‘Weightless’.

See you in 8 minutes – maybe – if the beats haven’t taken you somewhere lovely.

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Maybe you’re a student and you’ve got a major test coming up. Or you’re a 9-to-5er prepping for an uber-important presentation at work. Or perhaps your significant other is meeting your parents for the first time. Whatever it is that’s making you feel stressed, it’s time to chill out. Billboard has you covered with 30 relaxing tracks from established headliners and up-and-comers alike.

Including hits from the biggest names in EDM (like deadmau5 and Kaskade’s classic collaboration “I Remember”), essential TikTok montage tracks (like Petit Biscuit’s “Sunset Lover”) and songs that make it feel like summer even when it’s not (like Calvin Harris’ tropical banger “Slide” with Frank Ocean and Migos), these tracks are here to help soothe your soul and exhale your worries — even if it’s just for a little while. After all, that’s what music helps us do — feel better about life. Sometimes, that means getting us pumped to take on the world. Other times, it means sitting with our #feels and letting a little bit of bittersweet melancholy into our lives. Or maybe it’s about helping us through a particularly difficult time.

But when you’re feeling stressed out — and let’s be honest, we’ve all been there, and we’ll all be there again at some point — what better than chill, soothing songs to help you relax a bit and get through it. Nothing against a scented candle, of course, but pungent wax can’t hold a, well, candle to a good song.

Check out Billboard’s roundup of calming music favorites below.

Need to calm down during high-demand driving situations?

According to the National Institute of Health, “listening to music can positively impact mood while driving, which can be used to affect state and safe behaviour.”

Well, duh. The calmer the tunes, the calmer the mood.

However, a recent study published by Ergonomics suggests that you don’t want to dilly dally around when switching over from Slipknot to Coldplay:

The current study shows that during high-demand drives, drivers are calmed more effectively using abrupt music changes compared to gradual music changes. This is illustrated by reductions in physiological arousal and improved driving behaviour. Hence, in-car music presentation can be used as a tool to improve driver’s mood and behaviour.

So the take-away is, switch over sooner rather than later.

But…what songs do you choose? When you’re stuck in a traffic jam or freaking out a little in a tight construction zone, which songs soothe you best?

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After a few informal Twitter and Facebook polls, some interested parties suggested these relaxing songs for driving.

It’s an eclectic mix of mellow music, no doubt about it, and many of the folks who contributed added disclaimers like “anything by [such and such.]” Some of the songs sing of romance, others of heartache, and some just about how we humans deal with life, but one thing they all have in common is their peace-inducing feeling.

So, how about YOU, sweet readers? Which peaceful songs do you like to play when navigating intense driving situations?

The study found that decreasing tempos led to decreasing heart rates, which lowers the blood pressure. (Illustration by Claire Maske, Skidmore College))

Although meditation, yoga and taking naps are effective forms of stress relief, listening to music is one of the easiest ways to get your dopamine flowing. You might have your own personal playlist to calm your nerves, but this one is scientifically-backed.

A study conducted by neuroscientists from Mindlab International recorded participants’ physiological responses to specific songs while solving complex puzzles. Based on the results, the scientists came up with the 10 most relaxing songs.

1. Marconi Union, “Weightless”

Marconi Union is an English ambient music band that worked with sound therapists to create what is known as the most relaxing song in the world. The song actually induced a 65 percent reduction in overall stress among participants.

The reason for this, as explained by Lyz Cooper of the British Academy of Sound Therapy, is that the song utilizes a biomusicological phenomenon called “entrainment.” Cooper reports, “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.”

There is not really a melody; instead it is a series of tones with some samples of natural soundscapes. The oscillating chord that remains constant throughout the whole song is almost hypnotic. You can practically picture the soundwave waxing and waning.

I actually subconsciously sunk into a different headspace while listening. When I paused the video midway, it felt like a trance had been broken. I had to stop and blink a few times to come back to reality.

2. Airstream, “Electra”

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This relaxing song has similarities to “Weightless.” The tempo matches the optimal resting heart rate of 60 to 65 beats per minute. The mid-range frequencies and absence of a low, heavy bass is less taxing on the nervous system.

This song definitely has a “chiller” vibe to it, and it has more of a hip-hop beat, but nothing to the extreme. Yoga fans might find this the perfect background music for their sun salutations.

3. DJ Shah, “Mellomaniac (Chillout Mix)”

What makes this song relaxing is the reverb guitar above the ostinato, which is a repetitive musical pattern. The repetition frees the mind to feel the music rather than analyze it.

As the title of the song suggests, the beat is mellow and even a little bit sensual. The rainstick and the conga-like drum conjure visions of sipping something frozen on a tropical island.

4. Enya, “Watermark”

Everyone knows Enya from her classic, “Only Time,” which is an equally relaxing song. “Watermark” has a simple yet lovely piano arrangement, with a subtle chorus of human voices.

Layered with the chorus is a synthesizer accompaniment that creates white noise, which has been proven to induce tranquility. Save yourself the money on a white noise machine and just listen to this song.

5. Coldplay, “Strawberry Swing”

This is the first relaxing song on the list with lyrics, which proves that music does not have to be instrumental to be soothing. It has a slightly higher tempo and does not really promote relaxation so much as a feeling of contentment.

The lyrics themselves contribute to the carefree vibe, and even the video is fun to watch.

6. Barcelona, “Please Don’t Go”

Just like in “Electra,” the second song on this list, “Please Don’t Go” lacks a heavy bass and uses high and mid-range frequencies in the piano and the strings. It is also written in minor key, which is commonly found in sad songs.

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The lyrics stir emotion, and the soft, slightly raspy voice makes it sound as if the singer has been crying. You might start crying, too, if you really get absorbed into the song.

7. All Saints, “Pure Shores”

This critically acclaimed dream-pop relaxing song has that classic 2000s vibe, seeing as that is the year it was released. The lyrics and the video make me feel like I should also be prancing along the picturesque shoreline of the now-closed beach made famous by Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie “The Beach,” which featured this song in its soundtrack.

You can be alert and relaxed at the same time, which is the optimal state according to yoga practitioners. So even though it is uplifting and groovy, “Pure Shores” for shore deserves a spot on the most relaxing songs list.

8. Adele, “Someone Like You”

This iconic song earned its accolades, which included a Grammy. According to scientists, almost everything about this song is arranged to reduce the audience to tears.

“When the chorus breaks, Adele’s voice jumps an octave and belts out the notes with increasing volume,” a writer from The Daily Mail wrote. “At the same time, the harmony shifts and the lyrics become more dramatic.” Maybe at first you cannot see why this song is relaxing, but someone who is highly stressed just needs to let it all out with a good cry.

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9. Mozart, “Canzonetta Sull’aria”

When considering genres of relaxing music, classical most often comes to mind. This song by Mozart is one such example.

Mozart’s hallmark mathematical precision, coupled with the angelic female voices, is aurally pleasing. It is light, it is uncomplicated, and it does not ask much of the listener beyond simply enjoying the music.

10. Cafe Del Mar, “We Can Fly”

Although this relaxing song is enough to be added to the list, it is last for a reason. There is no discernible melody, and until the drum track kicks in, it sounds more like noise than music.

However, it is not all bad. The mid-tempo beat invokes images of traveling to far-off exotic lands. It is almost a requirement for an ambient song to incorporate white noise, but because it is effective, we will give it a pass.

While these songs each have distinctive styles, they share common elements such as white noise, low to mid-tempo and simple arrangements. If you find yourself feeling stressed, consider adding a song or two (or maybe all of them!) to your chillout playlist.

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