How Listening to Music Can Reduce Stress
Anyone managing hypertension knows stress is a key factor, which means keeping your anxiety in check is vital for good heart health. Why? When we are stressed, our heart rate and blood pressure go up.
In the age of self-care, there are a million strategies for staying calm. Fortunately, one is widely accessible and proven to work: music. Reducing stress levels can be as easy as putting on your favorite record. Research shows that music can lower cortisol levels and has a soothing effect on your nervous system.
How Does Music Have Such a Big Impact?
Listening to music releases endorphins and dopamine (the pleasure chemical), while reducing cortisol (the stress hormone). Music can change your biology. For example, slow songs can lower your heart rate, and our brains can synchronize with music. Studies have shown that music played around 60 beats per minute can induce the brainwave associated with meditative states. Plus, music can be a sleep aid, and sleep is imperative for mental and cardiovascular health.
Stress is reactive, while music is creative. Listening to music can encourage your brain to switch modes, essentially moving from survival mode to what psychologists call rest-and-digest mode (or the parasympathetic nervous system). This is the basis for music therapy, which creates sessions around purposeful listening and music creation.
Which Type of Music Works Best?
The music you choose to listen to matters, too. To reduce stress, try something slow and not too intense. To improve your mood, try an upbeat song. Music can even relieve pain, with its uncanny abilities to alter brain activity, make you happier, and act as a distraction — all of which can be physically therapeutic.
While heavily rhythmic, classical, and ambient music have all proven to be extremely effective relaxation tools, other genres can have positive outcomes in stress relief as well. Most music can be therapeutic, but the best genres to listen to will vary from person to person. Listening to music you do not like causes tension, so make sure you put on artists and styles you prefer.
Where Does Stress Even Come From?
When someone is in a heightened state of anxiety — the classic “fight, flight, or freeze” — they are experiencing a lack of control over external circumstances they perceive as threatening. Music helps ground us in the present moment, bringing us back down from that unpleasant state. It takes a lot for our brains to process music, so we have less room to think about the other (potentially negative) stimuli around us.
Clearly, music provides innumerable benefits to our physical and emotional well-being. From being an effective therapy treatment for anxiety and depression to functioning as a tool for connection, music works wonders. At the height of the pandemic — when people all around the world were suddenly trapped and isolated in their own homes — music was a significant apparatus for maintaining a sense of community and keeping calm as we all adjusted to these traumatic and unprecedented circumstances.
Stress and Cardiovascular Health
If you are reading this, you are most likely concerned with your cardiovascular health and want solutions that work. Good news: music is proven to have an impact on your heart, too. It can be beneficial for maintaining healthy blood pressure and heart rates. As noted above, it can simply reduce stress, which in turn helps your heart.
Music may even help after a major cardiac event. There is evidence that listening to calming music after suffering a heart attack led patients to experience less anxiety and pain. With regular mindful music listening, you can maintain healthier blood pressure readings. Other studies have shown music can help with overall cardiovascular healing. To stay dedicated to reducing stress and keeping your heart healthy, consider joining the Heart Club. Track your steps, monitor your blood pressure, and keep your medical documents organized — all with a single, simple app developed by our founder, a Mayo Clinic-trained cardiologist.