Life is hard. It’s stressful and seems to grow increasingly more so with every passing year – especially this year, dare I say. Managing stress is important, as too much of it can have adverse effects on your health. Meditation, exercise, and a proper night’s sleep go a long way to controlling that feeling of being overwhelmed.
There is, however, another way to curb your anxiety. Known as sound therapy, it’s been used by various cultures for thousands of years; Hindus, for example, used mantras. The Indigenous people of Central and South America recited Icaros, or medicine melodies. Regardless of their form, the application was the same—to “move us from a place of imbalance to a place of balance.”
So, how does this type of therapy work exactly? According to MBG, sound can help to shift our brain waves. Depending on the rhythm and frequency, we can “down-shift” our normal state into something that’s more relaxed or meditative. It’s similar to controlling and regulating our breaths—taking deep breaths with long exhales can calm our bodies. But rather than measured breathing, sound therapy uses specific types of noise (and can be a passive experience).
Building a Better Playlist
Scientists in the United Kingdom have identified what songs will help you relax. To do this, neuroscientist Dr. David Lewis-Hodgson of Mindlab International conducted a study to find the best tunes that promote stress relief. For it, participants were connected to sensors and attempted to solve difficult puzzles. These games caused some amount of stress, but participants listened to different relaxing songs as they worked. Researchers measured their brain activity and physiological states—heart rate, blood pressure, and rate of breathing—while the tests were going on.
One song topped the list and was found the most relaxing. It’s called Weightless by Marconi Union, and the results were staggering—the song decreased participants’ overall anxiety by up to 65%. Listening to Weightless, it’s easy to understand why it earned the title. The swelling tones and chimes are just stimulating enough to draw your attention away from worry, but ambient enough that your mind can unwind.
It’s no coincidence that this song is so soothing; Marconi Union collaborated with a group of sound therapists to create it. Together, their carefully arranged harmonies, rhythms, and base do the following: slow the listener’s heart rate; reduce blood pressure; and most importantly, lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
Bookmark These Songs
So go ahead, have a listen to Weightless. But be careful—it really works. “Weightless was so effective,” Dr. Lewis-Hodgson says, “many women became drowsy and I would advise against driving while listening to the song because it could be dangerous.”
You don’t need to listen to Weightless on repeat. There are other stress-relieving tunes that’ll aid in your chill session—here’s a public playlist on Spotify. Surprisingly, Adele’s song Someone Like You made the list, as did Strawberry Swing by Coldplay. But you’re probably not shocked to see that Enya has found her place there.