the science behind music and why it's so relaxing

The Science Behind Music and Why it's So Relaxing

Do you ever find yourself smiling when listening to your favorite song? How about tapping your foot subconsciously? Or walking with a little more pep in your step?

Many of us are moved by music.

Whether its jazz, classical, country, or rock, music transcends generations and cultures. As the sound of music fills our brain, we might find ourselves feeling positive. But it's not all in our heads.

Music has been shown to significantly lower anxiety and stress, increase moods, and even help us focus. This idea that music makes us relaxed or happier is actually backed by science.

So, what's the science behind music, and what makes us love it so much?

Music for Decreased Stress and Anxiety

An estimated 31 percent of US adults experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. Listening to music to relieve stress and anxiety is one of the most shared activities among humans.

Some of the most powerful factors contributing to anxiety and stress are hormone levels. When we feel threatened or distressed, the nervous system releases hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones can reach extremely high levels even as we go about our daily lives. 

Often referred to as nature's alarm clock, cortisol, and adrenaline levels work with brain functions to control mood, motivation, and fear. They also help regulate blood pressure, blood sugar, sleep cycles, and energy levels.

As stress and anxiety levels are increased, our brain is designed to react so that we are kept out of harm's way. When we listen to our favorite song or even a playlist of calming sounds, our body's natural reaction to stress is slowed down. As our cortisol and adrenaline levels decrease, our pulse, blood pressure, and heart rate are also relaxed.

A study conducted on surgery patients found that those patients who listened to instrumental music before and during surgery experienced significantly lower levels of cortisol than those who didn't. This decrease in cortisol levels was directly shown in lower levels of stress and anxiety in these patients.

If like so many of us, you experience anxiety, listening to relaxing music may help you to better navigate the daily stresses of life. 

Music's Effect on Brainwaves

The brain is made up of billions of cells that use electrical energy to communicate. These brain cells, called neurons, produce electrical activity that can be seen as brainwaves. Music is shown to significantly alter this brainwave activity. 

Most humans spend their lives at a normal level of brain activity. This means we are alert and concentrated while also experiencing some stress. When brainwave frequencies are lowered, we can learn and perform tasks with more precision and less distraction. 

But how can we calm down and lower these frequencies?

As we listen to music, our brain is partially focused on the sound. While focusing on this music, our brain's electrical patterns become slowed and brainwave frequency is lowered. This produces an effect on our body and mental state similar to that of meditation. 

While the concept of neurons and brain functions may seem complicated, there's no denying that lower frequencies of brainwave activity are extremely beneficial. Those that suffer from migraines or even Attention Deficit Disorder may also see a decrease in symptoms when listening to music. 

The calming effect that music has on brainwave activity is why many may choose to listen to music while completing everyday tasks like working or studying. If you're interested in relaxing music for studying that can improve your focus.

How Music Can Make Us Happy

Aside from helping us to be more focused and productive, listening to music has also been shown to make us happier. Just as music can affect our automatic nervous system, it can also affect our limbic system. The limbic system is home to brain functions that affect our memory and emotions. 

The limbic system is composed of four main parts; the hypothalamus, the thalamus, the amygdala, and the hippocampus. These parts respond to emotional stimuli and regulate our reactions to them. The intense pleasure we get from listening to music is thanks to our brain's reaction to the sound. 

When listening to relaxing music, a "feel-good chemical" called dopamine is released. Dopamine can also be released during activities like exercising or eating delicious food. 

As we listen to songs like Beethoven's Symphony Number Nine or Harry Styles' Golden, our brain is constantly anticipating what's coming next. Even if we've heard the song a hundred times, the reinforcement we get from this anticipation comes in the form of pleasure, also known as dopamine. 

One study found that the improved mood cause by listening to music is often seen in physical reactions. Out of 27 participants, 16 experienced all-over goosebumps or shivers down the spine, otherwise known as "chills", as a way to indicate pleasure from listening to music. This reaction is just one physical form of proof that music has the ability to make us happier.

Music for Better Sleep

If you have trouble sleeping, you're not alone. An estimated 164 million Americans struggle with getting sleep at least once a week. 

Lack of sleep can have a wide range of negative effects on our health, like increased risk for obesity and heart disease. Not to mention the severe lack of focus we may experience due to lack of sleep. 

Many factors, including stress and anxiety, can contribute to sleep issues. Music, however, can help. When listening to music slows our heart-rate, breathing, and blood pressure, we feel more relaxed. These reactions mimic the way we feel when we're falling asleep. 

When older adults listen to calming music for 45 minutes before bed, they are shown to fall asleep faster, wake up less during the night, and feel more rested the next morning. When younger adults listen to classical music before bed, they are also shown to see a significant enhancement in their night's sleep.

If you're someone who struggles with sleep, our sleep music can help you get the necessary rest you deserve.

The Science Behind Music: It's Good for Us

Whether it's better sleep, increased focus, or reduced anxiety that we're searching for, music can often do the trick. The science behind music concludes that using music to calm you down actually has significant benefits for our health and overall well-being. 

If you're looking for music that relaxes and connects the mind and body with harmony, check out our playlists or contact us.