Music can have a profound effect on both the emotions and the body. Faster music can make you feel more alert and concentrate better. Upbeat music can make you feel more optimistic and positive about life. A slower tempo can quiet your mind and relax your muscles, making you feel soothed while releasing the stress of the day. Music is effective for relaxation and stress management.
Research confirms these personal experiences with music. Current findings indicate that music around 60 beats per minute can cause the brain to synchronize with the beat causing alpha brainwaves (frequencies from 8 – 14 hertz or cycles per second). This alpha brainwave is what is present when we are relaxed and conscious. To induce sleep (a delta brainwave of 5 hertz), a person may need to devote at least 45 minutes, in a relaxed position, listening to calming music. Researchers at Stanford University have said that “listening to music seems to be able to change brain functioning to the same extent as medication.” They noted that music is something that almost anybody can access and makes it an easy stress reduction tool.
So what type of music reduces stress the best? A bit surprising is that Native American, Celtic, Indian stringed-instruments, drums, and flutes are very effective at relaxing the mind even when played moderately loud. Sounds of rain, thunder, and nature sounds may also be relaxing particularly when mixed with other music, such as light jazz, classical (the “largo” movement), and easy listening music. Since with music we are rarely told the beats per minute, how do you choose the relaxation music that is best for you? The answer partly rests with you: You must first like the music being played, and then it must relax you. You could start by simply exploring the music on this web page. Some may relax you, some may not. Forcing yourself to listen to relaxation music that irritates you can create tension, not reduce it. If that happens, try looking for alternatives on the internet or consult with Counseling Service staff for other musical suggestions. It is important to remember that quieting your mind does not mean you will automatically feel sleepy. It means your brain and body are relaxed, and with your new calm self, you can then function at your best in many activities.
Experiment now. Experience a “sound bath” and let the music carry you away
The links below each open relaxing musical selections in YouTube.
A Moment of Peace Meditation
Aneal & Bradfield, “Heaven and Earth Spirits” track from Life & Love). Lovely contemporary piano music with accompanying instruments and nature scenes.
Echoes of Time
C. Carlos Nakai from the Canyon Trilogy. Serene Native American flute music, with a picture of Nakai backlit by the sun at the Grand Canyon.
The Winding Path
Ken Kern from The Winding Path. Highly rated, beautiful piano music with accompanying instruments with pictures of exquisite flowers and plants.
Classical Indian Music for Healing and Relaxing
Gayatri Govindarajan, “Pure Deep Meditation” track. Lovely and rhythmic music played on the veena, the most ancient of the Indian plucked-instruments, with nature scenes.
Angels of Venice
Angels of Venice from Music for Harp, Flute and Cello. Classical with 3 instruments with nature pictures.
“Spirit Vision,” (David & Steve Gordon. Serene and lovely contemporary Native American informed-drumming music utilizing Taos Log Drum and Incan Pan along with other instruments and ocean/forest nature scenes.
Aneal & Bradfield from Light & Love. Reflective but strong contemporary music utilizing various instruments and occasional humming voices with colorful oscillating fractals
Spa Relaxing Music
Tranquil contemporary instrumental with piano and a fixed candle light.
Relaxation Music: 1-Hour Meditation Candle
Serene contemporary instrumental with piano and one flickering candle.
Dan Gibson. Nature sounds and instrumental, tranquil sleep music.
Marconi Union. The sounds on this video are carefully arranged harmonies, rhythms, and bass lines that help slow a listener’s heart rate, reduce blood pressure, and lower levels of the cortisol stress hormone.
What is music therapy?
Sound healing therapy uses aspects of music to improve physical and emotional health and well-being. The person being treated partakes in the experience with a trained practitioner. Music therapy may involve:
- listening to music
- singing along to music
- moving to the beat of the music
- playing an instrument
Healing with sound is believed to date back to ancient Greece, when music was used in an attempt to cure mental disorders. Throughout history, music has been used to boost morale in military troops, help people work faster and more productively, and even ward off evil spirits by chanting.
More recently, research has linked music to a number of health benefits, from boosting immune function and lowering stress levels to improving the health of premature babies.
What music therapy treats
Music therapy is used to treat symptoms of a number of conditions, including:
- anxiety disorders
- post-traumatic stress disorder
- autism spectrum disorder and learning difficulties
- behavioral and psychiatric disorders
Some of the supposed benefits of music therapy include:
- lowers stress
- decreases mood swings
- lowers blood pressure
- lowers cholesterol levels
- teaches pain management
- lowers risk for coronary artery disease and stroke
- improves sleep
How it works
Music therapy uses different aspects of sound to improve your emotional and physical well-being. How it works depends on the method being used. Most music therapy sessions are experienced one-on-one with a specially trained practitioner.
A session may involve sitting or lying down while listening to music or sounds from a speaker or instruments, or having vibrations applied using a special tool, such as a tuning fork. Depending on the method, you may be encouraged to participate by singing, moving, or even using a musical instrument, or you may need to remain still and quiet to let the sounds take effect.
Along with voice, the following are some of the different instruments used in music therapy:
- singing bowls
- tuning forks
- pan flute
Some methods use a variety of instruments in one session, which can include a guitar, piano, or other instrument.
Though evidence may be limited on some methods, music therapy has been found to be effective for stress reduction and relaxation and has been shown to offer many health benefits.
There is little risk to listening to music. Find the sounds that work for you.