Ah, music, the soundtrack of our lives. And whether it’s blaring out in the background when we’re getting ready for a big night out or turned up at full pelt to represent how peeved we are that our boss has forced us to stay late, it can make or break our mood in moments.
But rather than using your iPod playlist to get you fired up, have you ever thought about using it to calm you down? All these emotional attachments we have to a simple set of harmonies, hitting the decks is now thought to be the perfect remedy to de-stress anxious souls.
Stats from spa brand, ESPA’s recent Calm Study flagged up that 40% of women felt anxious at least once a day, with only 8% feeling calm just before bedtime. U.S. career site Recruiter is also predicting a peak in demand for music therapists, expecting up to 5870 new jobs to be created by 2018. Seems it’s not just as simple as listening to the top 40 anymore.
Music is the best medicine
Everyone has their personal playlists that will dictate how certain genres of music make them feel and act but when researching his latest book, Why We Love Music, physicist John Power discovered that there were some unanimous results. For example, classical music helped cure respondents’ insomnia by reducing the amount of noradrenaline (aka the vigilance chemical) in their systems. Similarly, communal singing was found to trigger oxytocin, the same chemical that puts in an appearance when we’re getting intimate.
Nikki Slade, a kirtan singer at Triyoga, explains it’s all down to our innate energy levels. “Essentially, everybody is made of vibrations, so we’re all made of energy,” she tells us. “Take the sound of the drums. Whenever we hear or feel them, we go back to the centre of the soul—the heartbeat. We think it’s the music that calms us, but really it’s the essence of vibrations.” It’s why it’s impossible to stand in a sea of football fans and not pipe up when they start chanting (or feel euphoric about it, even when we couldn’t give a monkey’s about the score). The heightened vibrations create one big heartbeat, says Slade.
Turn up the tempo
Apparently, the optimum tempo for peak chilling out is 80 beats per minute, so if you’re looking for a throwback Thursday moment to those nine months you were in the womb, make that your starting point. And as well as adding drums and classical music to your “keep calm and carry on” playlist, pop some gongs in there, too. Sound baths and gong therapy have been common practice in India for centuries, but in the West, it’s a relatively new concept. (Expect to see it at a yoga studio near you soon.)
It's all about the good vibrations
“Gongs are particularly calming because the vibrations in varying volumes resonate through every cell in your body allowing you to let go of thoughts and just be present,” says Raeeka Yassaie, a gong therapist and yoga teacher. “As well as tapping into your parasympathetic nervous system, which naturally slows you down and sends you into a state of relaxation, from a yogic perspective, we believe the vibrations can help reset your nervous system and whole physical body.”
It’s certainly worth trying if you struggle with a wandering mind when it comes to mindfulness. Bridging the gap between complete silence where your mind can easily wander off into familiar What should I have for dinner tonight? territory, and a song with lyrics you’re tempted to sing along to, the pure and simple rhythms, beats and volumes, be it from Bach or some bongos, allows them to act as a spectacular attention sponge.
Plug in to wind down
Still need a starting point to practise from? Mindlab International found that one specific song created by musicians and sound therapists has been proven to slow the heart rate and blood pressure and lower stress hormones including cortisol. Called Weightless, 65% of listeners’ anxiety reduced whilst it was being wired across the airwaves while several zoned out and nodded off completely.