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What an old friend it is to me.
Well, not really a friend, more like a foe.
A foe that walked next to me for a good 20 years before I finally realized just how stressed out I had been for my whole life.
Well, maybe I could call it a friend because over time I learned some really important lessons about myself and life that I may have not otherwise learned…
For as long as I can remember, I was always stressed. When I was a child I had a tendency to stress out about things that didn’t warrant stress. Both my mom and sister can tell you stories about this.
As a matter of fact, I didn’t realize just how much stress had run my life until a few months ago I was watching my old high school yearbook and guess what my class voted me our senior year:
I kid you not…That is what the text said on my senior year video yearbook. Which means that one of the most prominent memories that my classmates have of me is that I was always stressed out.
That makes my heart a little sad.
As I grew into adulthood, my stress didn’t go away. My anxiety grew increasingly worse year after year until a point around 2011 when my panic attacks got so bad that it was suggested I go on anti-anxiety medication.
I declined medication and knew I had to figure something else or there was a strong likelihood I would die an early, stress-induced death. I started focusing on nutrition, mindset, yoga, meditation, and prayer. And music. Music has always been therapeutic for me. That is one thing that I always enjoyed from a very young age.
None of these things fixed my anxiety issues overnight, but they sure helped move me out of a pattern of anxious darkness and into a world where I was able to better manage stressful situations when they arose (instead of crumpling in a heap on the floor).
Music’s Effects on Anxiety, Stress, and Health
Music has always been something I love and I have always noticed a remarkable impact on my anxiety or unsettledness whenever I listen to certain songs. Sound therapy has long been used to help manage stress, anxiety, and uneasiness, even back into indigenous cultures. In modern times, it has been proven to:
- Slow your pulse and heart rate
- Reduce blood pressure
- Reduce levels of stress hormones
- Relieve depression
- Reduce chronic pain
- and more
Sound therapy doesn’t just apply to adults. It applies to children and babies, even premature babies, as well. In a study done at Beth Israel Medical Center’s Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine researchers wanted to see what effect music had on premature babies.
Their participants included 272 premature babies who were all 32 weeks gestation or older, located in 11 mid-Atlantic NICUs. During the study, they looked at the effects of three types of music:
- a lullaby selected and sung by the baby’s parents
- an “ocean disc” (which is a round instrument, invented by the Remo drum company, that mimics the sounds of the womb)
- a gato box (which is a drum-like instrument used to simulate two-tone heartbeat rhythms)
The two instruments used in the test were played live by certified music therapists. These therapists matched their music to the babies’ breathing and heart rhythms.
The researchers found that the gato box, the Remo ocean disc and singing all slowed a baby’s heart rate, although singing was the most effective. Singing also increased the amount of time babies stayed quietly alert, and sucking behavior improved most with the gato box, while the ocean disc enhanced sleep. The music therapy also lowered the parents’ stress, says Joanne Loewy, the study’s lead author, director of the Armstrong center and co-editor of the journal Music and Medicine.
“There’s just something about music — particularly live music — that excites and activates the body,” says Loewy, whose work is part of a growing movement of music therapists and psychologists who are investigating the use of music in medicine to help patients dealing with pain, depression and possibly even Alzheimer’s disease. “Music very much has a way of enhancing quality of life and can, in addition, promote recovery.”
There has been a lot of research done on the effects of music and anxiety for children and adults. And now, we have even more recent science which has given us a playlist of the top 10 songs for reducing anxiety.
The Song that Reduces Stress by 65%!
Thanks to the work of neuroscientists in the UK, they have been able to show which specific sounds give us the biggest impact on reducing anxiety. The study was conducted by Mindlab International as a way to research the impact of certain sounds on stress. This is how they did it:
“participants who attempted to solve difficult puzzles as quickly as possible while connected to sensors. The puzzles induced a certain level of stress, and participants listened to different songs while researchers measured brain activity as well as physiological states that included heart rate, blood pressure, and rate of breathing.”
According to Dr. David Lewis-Hodgson of Mindlab International there was one song that generated a greater sense of relaxation than any other songs or sounds tested up until this point.
The song is called “Weightless” by Marconi Union (video below). They found that participants who listened to this one song had an incredible 65% reduction in their overall anxiety, as well as a 35% reduction in their normal physiological resting rates. This is a pretty amazing result!
I listened to the song and I indeed felt more relaxed. Tune in below and tell me how you feel in the comments below.
Marconi Union created this song in conjunction with sound therapists. They carefully crafted the rhythms, harmonies, and bass lines help reduce the listener’s blood pressure, slow down their heart rate, and positively impact the stress hormone cortisol by lowering it.
So now the creators have scientific validation that they were able to achieve what they set out for. High five creators!
Chronic Stress = Chronic Illness
By now, you likely know the catastrophic impact of stress and anxiety on the body. Of course our lives will never be 100% stress free and our bodies are perfectly designed to manage acute stress.
But, our bodies are not designed to handle chronic stress, which is where most people operate at (including me for the last two decades of my life). According to the Mayo Clinic, chronic, unmanaged stress can exacerbate current health issues and increase the risk of things like:
- Digestive problems
- Heart disease
- Sleep problems
- Weight gain
- Memory and concentration impairment
In my personal experience as a health coach (currently in training), it’s easy to see in my own community of friends, family, and clients how all of the issues above are plaguing the vast majority of people. Digestive problems rank at the top of the list for many people, quickly followed by unwanted weight gain, sleep issues, and depression (mild to severe).
Digestive issues and sleep issues alone can have a dramatic impact on not only our cardiovascular system, but our entire metabolic system and brain. And, all of this leads to a lower quality of life and a diminishing of the vibrancy inside us.
Like I said above, our lives will never be free of stress. Stress is a part of life and we have to deal with it when it comes up. But, we have a choice as to how we react to stress and there are lots of things we can do physically and mentally to help prime our bodies and minds into stress-busting machines.
Yes, I know full well that when you are in the thick of it (like in the middle of an anxiety attack or overwhelming stress) that it doesn’t feel like you have a choice. I certainly didn’t feel like I did. I honestly felt broken. Like there was something seriously wrong with me. Perhaps my brain was defective and I was simply unable to have any other reaction than full on stress out.
But now, I am on the other side, I can see that I did have a choice. The choice started with a desire to seek information that could make me better and also the choice to make better choices when faced with a tough situation.
My choice started with talking to my own practitioner about things and starting on a new supplementation protocol (specifically HTMA – hair tissue mineral analysis) that ended up having profound effects on my anxiety issues and my menstrual cycle issues. You can read about how mineral balancing changed my life here, how HTMA changed my life here, and how HTMA helped me manage stress here.
In addition, addressing things like food intolerances, toxins, and heavy metals can be a great step towards reducing or alleviating anxiety. Many anxiety issues can be linked back to food intolerances, which in turn can be linked to leaky gut and poor digestive function. Toxins and heavy metals can wreak havoc on the whole body, including the digestive system and brain.
Music Playlist for Relaxation
Music is by far one of the easiest ways to take some of our daily pressure off. Even if you just give yourself 5 minutes a day to sit down and listen to one relaxing song and focus on your breathing, you will be ahead of the game. And, the more often you cultivate this special self-care time, the quicker you will see results and the more likely you are to continue creating more room for self-care in your life.
Melanie Curtain at Inc.com made a playlist of the top songs for relaxation that she shared in her article about the UK scientist’s discoveries. This is her list. Please note, that it is advised that you don’t listen to these songs unless you are in a safe place as the physical response can be so relaxing that it could put you in danger if you are driving or out walking around somewhere.
- “Weightless,” by Marconi Union
- “Electra,” by Airstream
- “Mellomaniac (Chill Out Mix),” by DJ Shah
- “Watermark,” by Enya
- “Strawberry Swing,” by Coldplay
- “Please Don’t Go,” by Barcelona
- “Pure Shores,” by All Saints
- “Someone Like You,” by Adele
- “Canzonetta Sull’aria,” by Mozart
- “We Can Fly,” by Rue du Soleil (Café Del Mar)
She also made a public playlist of all of these songs on Spotify for those that use that platform. The playlist runs about 50 minutes and is also downloadable.
I’d love to hear from you. How has music impacted your stress and anxiety? What strategies are your favorite for managing life when things get tough? Please leave a comment below so we can start a conversation about this important topic.
P.S. If you’ve been struggling with your relationship to food and body and are ready to find the peace and freedom you’ve truly been craving, I would love to help. Whether you’re dealing with binge eating, overeating, yo-yo dieting, body shame/hate, or a combination of the above, know that these symptoms are holding a deeper message for you.
Come join my 7-day Food & Body Freedom eCourse (it’s free!) here. This eCourse came from my passion for helping women transform their relationships to food and body. What you desire IS truly possible if you are ready, open, and willing. It is time to say goodbye to the years of control, compulsive behaviors, limiting beliefs, scarcity of joy, and actions driven from a place of fear and feelings of unworthiness, once and for all. Learn more and sign up here.
- The Mind Lab, “Did You Know”
- Good Housekeeping, “Listening to this Song Can Reduce Anxiety by 65%“
- Inc.com, “According to Neuroscience, These Are the 10 Most Relaxing Songs Ever“
- The Atlantic, “The Alarming, Long-Term Consequences of Workplace Stress“
- The Mayo Clinic, “Stress Management“
- Psych Central, “The Power of Music to Reduce Stress“
- American Psychological Association, “Music as Medicine“