Can Music Help Anxiety?

Author Tracy Smith
April 27, 2020

Music shows great versatility and can be a powerful outlet for many people. Some individuals have difficulty verbalizing their thoughts and feelings and use music as a means of self-expression. Eric Clapton penned and sang Tears in Heaven, a heartfelt expression of grief after the death of his son. Some people feel that the lyrics and instrumentals of a song can appropriately and succinctly say what they cannot. A song has the capability of sparking a prior memory of where you were when you once heard it. 

music anxiety for anxiety

Music has great impact on emotion and has the propensity to cheer somebody up when they are down. It’s difficult to remain sad while listening to the upbeat tune of Justin Timberlake singing Happy. Similarly, a bubbly tune can keep someone feeling cheerful. If music can be a source of self-expression and have such a significant impact on mood and emotion, it begs the question of how it can impact anxiety.

Well, not surprisingly, music is also correlated with reduction in anxiety symptoms. One of the most popular and effective ways to put a crying infant to sleep is with a lullaby. The melodic tones and sweet words of a lullaby can help an anxious, tired, or frustrated baby go to sleep. 

Children or adults with anxiety may have difficulty falling asleep at night, especially when worry and fear engulf them in the darkness. Music can help quell anxiety, as an individual can either be lulled by rhythmic instrumentals or distracted by the lyrics of a song. 

There are many different genres that can assist with anxiety and relaxation. Classical music can be extremely soothing for some, especially when listening to the comforting sounds of a piano or harp. Some music is touted as easy listening music, while other types of music are fondly referred to as dinner or elevator music.

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Kenny G has many songs that can prompt feelings of calm and relaxation. Some individuals find instrumentals and lyrics from the big band era to be reassuring and calming.

Music is often paired with words and sounds in guided meditation skits. Guided meditation utilizes music in the background while prompting the listener to tense and relax their muscles while envisioning various scenes and scenarios. Music paired with the tone and volume of the wording can quickly ease a person’s tension and worry.

Music heard as a child can become a source of security when listened to as an adult. If music was originally paired with feelings of refuge or safety, it can have strong impact on present day anxiety. Certain songs or lullabies that soothed during childhood child can help an adult block out and ignore anxiety and stressors.

Music can have a physical, chemical impact on the brain. Music serves to stimulate the brain as a whole and pitch, tempo, rhythm, and pace can impact the brain in various ways. Music can have physiological effects on the body, as it can impact heart rate, hormones, the immune system, and the nervous system. Music can elicit the brain to release endorphins, to increase levels of dopamine, and to hinder the pain response, all increasing feelings of overall well being.

A branch of therapy called music therapy is a medium where certified music therapists utilize music to address emotional and psychological issues and concerns. Therapeutic activities help individuals to listen, write, or perform music and can be combined with other creative modalities such as dance, movement, or art. 

Music unequivocally can help a person to cope with stress and anxiety. You may or may not have noticed, but music is almost always playing in the offices of physicians, dentists, and hospitals. These places are commonly wrought with stress and anxiety and music is played to distract patients from their anxiety.

At the end of the day, music shows great versatility in that it provides pleasure, has an impact on mood and emotion, can be used as a means of self-expression, and has a sprinkle of nostalgia added to it.

Author Tracy Smith

Tracy is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is a clinical supervisor for a Community YMCA. Tracy has over 12 years of experience working in many settings including partial care hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs, community agencies, group practice, and school-based programs. Tracy works with clients of all ages, but especially enjoys working with the adolescents.

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