Music is for many a self-prescribed method of relaxation. Listening to music is a simple way to engage your mind in other activities and allow yourself to decompress. Many of us instinctively know that and we are drawn to music to seek destress and relaxation.
Science backs it up
Studies have indicated that music can induce a relaxation response. This happens by lowering blood pressure and cortisol levels and increasing oxytocin levels. A recent study on the Music and Medicine Journal, for example, suggested that good quality relaxing music could lower blood pressure. The study focused on individuals at high risk of cardiovascular disease. The researchers wrote a song for the study at approximately 56 bpm. They designed it to promote a meditative state with long and suspension tones. The frequency of the music was also varied from 440 to 432 Hz. That basically altering how high or low the music sounded.
In another study in the same journal, participants listened to what the authors called relaxation music. They used a song entitled “Peaceful Journey” by composer and sound therapist Jonathan Goldman. They chose the music according to recommendations for relaxing music by other music therapists.
Oxytocin and Cortisol
Another possible underlying mechanism of music effect could be oxytocin, which is a neuro-hormone with bonding and relaxing effects. Alexander Legge also argues in a paper that listening to relaxing music decreases blood levels of cortisol—a marker for stress. The effect on both oxytocin and cortisol levels could then be an explanation of why some music seems to help us relax.
Is Relaxing Music Universally Relaxing?
It is still elusive what types of music or what elements of music induce relaxation. The types of music more commonly known or claimed to be used for relaxation are sonic mantras, drones, sounds of nature, and brainwave entrainment music. But there are certainly people who relax better listening to Beethoven or to their favorite singer. Gender, cultural background, time, age, and many other factors influence the effect music has on us. We have put together a list of music specifically for relaxation. If they do not have an effect on you try exploring by yourself. Perhaps what is most important is to disconnect from your digital and everyday life and let the music wash away your problems.
List of Relaxing Pieces
Here it is, a list of 10 relaxing songs compiled from music therapy papers, music therapists and music therapy students:
Peaceful Journey, (Laraaji, Sarah Benson, and Jonathan Goldman, track from De-Stress), YouTube, recommended by Pelletier and Grocke & Wigram and used in music therapy study, 26:38.
Tranquil Space, (Laraaji, Sarah Benson, and Jonathan Goldman, track from De-Stress), YouTube, constant sound of water running, plus a drone and ambient sounds, 23:23.
Rheinberger – Abendlied, (The Cambridge Singers), YouTube, choral song recommended by music therapist Doug Keith.
Ambient 1: Music for Airports, (Brian Eno), YouTube, this is a simple composition with piano and some other instruments.
Clair de Lune, (Debussy), YouTube, I am personally a fan of Debussy and find this composition relaxing.
Natural Cause, (Emancipator), YouTube, recommended by another music therapy student.
Threnody, (Goldmund), YouTube, nice and simple piano piece.
Binaural Beats and Isochronic Tones, YouTube, I cannot attest to the efficiency of binaural beats, but it is accessible out there if you find it helpful to relax.
Light Drizzle, (Chihei Hatakeyama), YouTube, this piece does not have a clear beat but rather it is like a waterfall of sounds interacting with each other.
Relaxing Music with Nature Sounds, YouTube, I thought about including this one to also give you a chance to listen to some nature sounds.
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