The British Academy of Sound Therapy (BAST) has been studying the beneficial effects of listening to music for therapeutic purposes for years.
The new research by BAST, the Music as Medicine project, has tried to identify exactly what kind of music stimulates positive neural responses and how long one must listen before these responses begin to activate.
“Most people hear or actively listen to music every day and as humans we tend to change our playlists based on our mood,” explained the neuroscientists at BAST.
“Music psychologists have proven time and time again, that music can have an effect on our health. So with that in mind, wouldn’t it be great if we could prescribe music to help with certain mood states?”
That’s exactly what they’ve succeeded in doing with Music as Medicine, and some of the results are truly stunning.
In a pre-trial survey of the 7,581 people involved in the project, 89% of the participants said that music was essential to their health and or well-being.
Music for Relaxation
13 minutes was found to be the optimum listening time in the case of music to relax. This kind of music was characterized with a slow tempo, simple melodies and no lyrics, like Weightless, by Marconi Union.
That song from this Manchester-based music trio was found to reduce symptoms of anxiety by up to 65%.
“Our test subjects reported positive benefits including decreased muscle tension, negative thoughts disappearing, feeling peaceful and contented and being able to sleep better,” exclaimed the study.
That’s because 79% had reduced muscle tension, 84% had less negative thoughts, and 82% had a better nights sleep or felt restful & contented.
Music for Happiness
For those, like the GNN founder, who prefer dancing to get their cardio benefits, even less music is scientifically found to bring greater power into your legs and happiness into your mind.
After listening to driving rhythm and fast tempo music with happy lyrical content for just 9 minutes, 89% of participants had improved energy levels, 65% laughed more and/or felt happier, 82% felt able to take on anything or felt more in control of their lives.
Music to Process or Release Sadness
Because sadness is very personal, people selected unsurprisingly music with lyrics they connected with. Like listening for relaxation, 13 minutes were found to be enough for optimal benefit.
“Listening to music for sadness caused our listeners to feel a sense of relief, be less overwhelmed, feel more stable and less likely to be triggered by things that reminded them of the issue,” they said.
87% felt more emotionally stable, 84% felt less overwhelmed, a record 91% felt relief & release, while 84% said they came out the other side of their sadness.
While this research may seem like a cool bonus to doing what most of us love to do—listen to music—it’s actually leading to potential therapeutic interventions like this study that used the same tune as Music for Medicine “Weightless” to calm pre-operational anxiety attacks.
The study found that listening to Marconi Union’s track reduced symptoms of anxiety in patients waiting to undergo surgery.