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What Type of Music Is Best For Anxiety?

Anxiety is a common condition affecting millions of people worldwide. While therapy and medication are often recommended treatments, music can also be an effective tool for managing anxiety. But is any music helpful for anxiety or are certain types better than others? Research provides some answers on what music works best to provide anxiety relief.

Slow Tempo Music

Several studies have found slow tempo music, usually under 60 beats per minute, to be the most relaxing kind of music. Slower music tends to promote deep breathing, lower heart rates and blood pressure, and calm brain wave patterns – all physiological effects that counter anxiety.

A study published in the journal Heart examined patients with coronary heart disease, finding that listening to just 30 minutes per day of slow, relaxing music (under 60 bpm) resulted in reduced anxiety and lower blood pressure. Slow, soothing music can act as a form of meditation, shifting the body into a more relaxed state.

Classical and Instrumental Pieces

While any style of music can be created in a slower tempo, certain genres tend to be calmer than others. Classical music as well as solo instrumental pieces, like piano or flute, are often most effective for anxiety relief.

The structured nature of classical music in particular has a stabilizing effect on the mind and body. A study by Lebanese researchers found listening to Mozart reduced anxiety, blood pressure, and heart rate in people undergoing a stressful medical procedure. Instrumental covers of popular songs can also induce relaxation by taking away distracting lyrics.

Sounds of Nature

Recordings of gentle nature sounds, like ocean waves, rainfall, or forest sounds can also lower anxiety. Natural sounds envelop the listener and have been shown in studies to lower physiological arousal.

Researchers in one study had college students listen to 12 minutes of nature sounds and found it promoted faster recovery from stress than listening to silence. Similar to ambient or classical music, the repetitive, soothing sounds of nature guide the body into a more relaxed state to counteract feelings of worry and panic.

Familiar and Positive Music

Listening to music you know and enjoy is helpful for alleviating anxiety because familiarity is comforting. Positive music that evokes feelings of happiness through cheerful melodies and uplifting lyrics can improve mood and take the mind off anxious thoughts.

A study by researchers in France found that playing participants their preferred music genre led to decreased anxiety and lower heart rate during a stressful medical exam. Tailoring your music selection to pieces that make you feel good can help minimize anxiety.

Avoid Aggressive, Dissonant Music

While personal music preferences differ, very intense music with aggressive or dissonant sounds can potentially worsen feelings of anxiety. Harsh lyrics or chaotic, loud instrumentation can overstimulate the senses.

A study in Germany observed neurological reactions in the brain when exposed to varying music types. Dissonant, distorted music increased activity in the part of the brain associated with anxiety while consonant, pleasurable music lowered neural activity. To reduce anxiety, avoid music containing a lot of aggressive tones, distorted noises, or jarring genre combinations.

Moderate Volume

Turning up music too loudly can counter relaxation effects. Loud music over 75 decibels that triggers feelings of irritation can elevate heart rate and blood pressure. Soft to moderate volume around 50-70 decibels allows the music to soothe anxiety rather than contribute to it through added sensory overload.

Utilize a Variety

Anxiety relief may depend on more than just tempo, genre and volume. Personally significant lyrics, instrumental timbre, tone colors and combinations can make certain pieces uniquely calming. Having a varied playlist of different anxiety relieving music allows you to experience different benefits from classical strings to piano to harp and flute sounds.

Listen Regularly

Consistency is key when using music for anxiety. Regular listening sessions, such as 30 minutes daily, have been shown optimal to reduce stress hormones and alleviate anxiety over time. Making relaxing music part of your daily routine can provide an accessible tool whenever anxiety symptoms start to occur.

While research indicates certain genres and features like slower tempo or nature sounds can induce relaxation, individuals may respond differently to styles. Experiment to find your optimal anxiety relieving music. Any music that brings positive emotions and calms your mind can help manage anxiety with regular use. Pay attention to how your body responds so you can build playlists with the best music to relieve your anxiety.