Why songs heal anxiety (especially these ones)

Music can very much help with my anxiety. It lulls, it distracts, it provides a lofty, expansive perspective from which I’m able to “see” my anxiety and ride it out.

Most relaxing song Sarah Wilson
Image via Playbuzz

Sound therapists at the British Academy of Sound Therapy looked into why this may be so and created the most scientifically relaxing song possible. Listen to their creation – ‘Weightless’.

The gist to why it works is this: Feelings of euphoria and comfort are created by deliberately chosen gaps in the notes. It begins at 60 beats per minute then gradually slows to around 50, at which time the your heartbeat falls into line with the beat. The study showed this process, known as entrainment, takes about five minutes to start.

Which is why their song is a loooong 8 minutes.

This gentle slowing of the song brings calm to the body, shifting the heart, respiration, blood pressure and brainwaves, lowering blood pressure, slowing heart rate and reducing cortisol at unprecedented rates.

Plus, the absence of repetitive melodies prevents the brain from trying to predict what comes next, allowing the brain to essentially “switch off”.

They ranked a bunch of others that worked in a similar way.

Top 10 list most relaxing songs:

  • 1. Weightless
  • 2. Electra (Airstream)
  • 3. Mellomaniac (DJ Shah – Chill Out Mix)
  • 4. Watermark (Enya)
  • 5. Strawberry Swing (Coldplay)
  • 6. Please Don’t Go (Barcelona)
  • 7. Pure Shores (All Saints)
  • 8. Someone Like You (Adele)
  • 9. Canzonetta Sull’aria (Mozart)
  • 10. We Can Fly (Café Del Mar).

What do you listen to when you’re anxious? Me, Classic FM helps. Gillian Welch, Antony and the Jacksons and (at the other end of the energy spectrum) Alabama Shakes, spring to mind.

What’s on your ‘anti-anxiety playlist’?

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