Using Music to Help With Anxiety and Stress – Hypnotherapy in Ely & Newmarket
Can music help you to be able to better handle, deal and cope with your anxiety and stress? We all encounter music of some kind every day, whether it’s on TV, a film soundtrack, listening to the radio, playing your playlist, hearing someone sing, overhearing someone else’s music, or some other form of music that you encounter during your day.
Several days a week my day starts with exercise and listening to the accompanying music selected by the trainer (much of which is of a dubious quality in my opinion!). I use music through the day to support the hypnosis work I do with people and there will probably be some sort of music going on when I get home, whether that’s from the TV or one of my children singing.
As it happens, only recently one of my girls was part of a choir that put on a celebratory musical performance at a local theatre. I love the way that kids just sing with a smile of their faces and a real sense of positivity and enjoyment. Throughout the various acts and songs at the show you could sense the fun, energy and excitement coming from each and every person involved, which added to the enjoyment of us watching them. Certainly my daughter is always buzzing from the experience afterwards. One of the songs they performed was ‘Happy Together’ by the Turtles, and now if anyone in our house says the word ‘imagine’ (the first word in the song) they can expect to person they are talking to to break out into a rendition of the song.
Before the performance started there was a video on loop showing interviews with some of the kids where they described how important music was to them. And one of the key themes was about how music can help you to deal with stress, to feel better after a bad day and how it can help lift your mood. I know from my own music listening, as well as playing the guitar, that when you get engrossed in music then you are often just there in that moment and other thoughts and other mental noise fades away and can diminish.
When someone is anxious, stressed or depressed they often describe to me how they have lost their love of music or have stopped listening to the things they used to enjoy. They are focused on the negative and unwanted thoughts and feelings, and in doing so, often get caught in an increasing spiral of worry and negativity. And sometimes if we do listen to music then we match it to our mood so that when you are happy then you will likely play happy, upbeat tracks and when you feel sad you play slower, sadder songs. Again, this can magnify, reinforce and amplify how you are feeling (helpfully or less helpfully).
So what is the impact of music if you want to alleviate your symptoms of stress and anxiety?
Now, I don’t have any photos of my daughter singing at her choir performance (because I rightly wouldn’t be able to show pictures of anyone else’s kids here) but it was in a lovely spot and there were a lot of swans about:
And my other daughter and I enjoyed hanging around by the water in the evening sun while we waited to head home afterwards:
You’ll also be relieved to know there are no recordings of me singing, or guitar playing, available to publish here at the present time!
Effects of Music on Stress
Excessive stress can be problematic for a number of reasons. It can have negative impacts upon your physical health, can stop you thinking clearly and can lead to struggling to function effectively in your life. The stressful thoughts and feelings can grow and grow until they feel overwhelming and inescapable.
Music interventions have been associated with stress reduction because of the positive effects of music listening on both physiological arousal (such as heart rate and blood pressure) and on psychological stress experiences (such as restlessness, worry, anxiety, and nervousness). In order to integrate the available knowledge on the effects of music interventions on stress, de Witte et al (2020) carried out a systematic review and meta-analysis of the research into the effects of music interventions on both physiological and psychological stress-related outcomes.
Their results demonstrated that music interventions had an overall significant effect on stress reduction in both physiological and psychological outcomes. That is, music helped and had a positive impact upon the physical, psychological and the emotional impacts of stress.
“We conclude that music interventions are effective in reducing physiological and psychological stress-related symptoms in different kinds of settings (mental healthcare, polyclinic medical settings, during medical surgery and in daily life situations)” (de Witte et al, 2020).
This review of the available evidence on music for stress reduction suggests that you can use music to help you to alleviate some of the anxiety, restlessness and worry that you may have been experiencing. This effect could arise from taking some time to listen to something that you find pleasurable or comforting, and music may also serve as a distraction from the things that have been causing you to experience the stress.
The benefit of music listening is often something that people call upon at night to help them sleep. Many people tell me about they use slow and soothing music, or natural sounds (such as rain falling or the sea) to help them to switch off from the day and to calm their thoughts and feelings so that they can drift to sleep. Others have described how signing, playing music or listening to music can help them after a stressful day or as a way of getting rid of any pent up emotions.
And the research here suggests that making even more strategic use of music may certainly have a positive impact if you are struggling to cope with any of the physical, emotional or psychological impacts of stress.
Effects of Music on Anxiety
There is also evidence to support the use of music in helping to decrease your anxiety, even during potentially more stressful and challenging situations such as those that existed at the height of the pandemic.
For example, research has investigated the effect of music on the anxiety levels of students during the pandemic. Significant negative impacts upon mental health were reported in students/adolescents during the pandemic as a result of stress from factors such as disruptions to education, limits on social activities and family distress.
Although based upon a small sample, the participants were showing clinical levels of anxiety before a brief music intervention and a significant decrease in anxiety afterwards. This suggests that brief music experiences may be a useful coping strategy for dealing with anxiety. Of course, the stress of the pandemic impacted upon all of us (not just students) which suggests that these results would likely be much more widely applicable.
That study made use of a five minute piece of music specifically created to address anxiety and stress management. The music was specifically created by Fiore (2018) and is actually available to listen to here: https://soundcloud.com/user604701773/music-for-trio. As mentioned, this brief five minute music intervention was enought to help significantly reduce anxiety levels.
In a Brazilian study, (Ribeiro et al, 2021), participants with depression and anxiety reported using music during the pandemic to help with things such as feeling emotionally better, feeling comfort, forgetting problems, decreasing sad feelings, reducing anxiety, relaxation and help them to ward off stressful thoughts. People with depression were more likely to use music as a coping strategy for negative mood management. In a further study set in the context of pandemic stress and anxiety, participants reported using music for factors such as emotional regulation, to improve mood, to improve energy levels and to relax (Ziv and Hollander-Shabtai, 2022).
And another study has also demonstrated the use of music for emotional regulation and mood management. In this study, participants reported an increase in the time they devoted to musical activities such as listening, singing, dancing or playing an instrument during lockdown. Music was used to help them to cope through using music to relax, escape negative feelings, raise their mood or to keep them company (Cabedo-Mas, Arriaga-Sanz and Moliner-Miravet, 2021).
The studies I’ve mentioned here for anxiety were specifically based upon the use of music for anxiety relief and emotional coping during the uncertain and often stressful and challenging period of a pandemic. As this was a time when most would have felt challenged and been affected, it does suggest that music can be a useful coping strategy to meet day to day demands and as a way of positively managing how you feel.
And even outside of the pandemic, music has been associated with reduced anxiety, the reduction/prevention of depression, enhanced mood, mental well-being and as a coping strategy (Daykin et al, 2018), it has been shown that it may help to improve depression symptoms (Leubner and Hinterberger, 2017) and has been shown to be associated with a decrease in overall self-reported anxiety (Panteleeva et al, 2018). All of which is strong support for the notion of making deliberate use of music if you want to experience some relief from your anxiety.
Music For Stress and Anxiety Relief
The evidence cited above suggests that music may be beneficial in helping you to deal with your anxiety and stress. Music can help you as a coping strategy, for relaxation, to lift your mood, to handle negativity and as as a tool for positive mood management.
Like many other strategies, such as time in nature and exercise, music can be another thing that you call upon to aim to manage how you feel and to cope with anxiety and stress, although it may not be the only form of help that you may need. Hypnotherapy, of course, has a strong track record for helping with anxiety and stress and for helping you to take control over your thoughts and feelings.
Yet along with effective therapeutic help and support, the evidence suggests that you may well find that finding a purposeful role for music in your life can help with managing your mental health and well-being.
Certainly music is something we often call upon in our house, whether it’s to make doing some chores more bearable (and to distract the kids so they forget they are tidying up), for fun (my daughter was testing me on modern musical artists yesterday and finds it hilarious that I have no clue who sings what…it all sounds the same to me!!) or for learning and skill development (such as learning an instrument). As mentioned at the outset, music forms an integral part of my hypnosis sessions and hypnosis downloads, and as mentioned in the research above, can help with promoting mental calmness and physical relaxation to counter anxiety and stress.
So if you love music then be sure to engage with it, especially when you are dealing with something or need a lift, and be sure to consider how you can benefit from music to help you to deal with the challenges you face and to help you to feel better and better in yourself.
To your health and happiness,
Anxiety Hypnotherapy in Ely & Newmarket
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Cabedo-Mas, A., Arriaga-Sanz, C. and Moliner-Miravet, L., 2021. Uses and perceptions of music in times of COVID-19: a Spanish population survey. Frontiers in psychology, 11, p.606180.
Daykin, N., Mansfield, L., Meads, C., Julier, G., Tomlinson, A., Payne, A., Grigsby Duffy, L., Lane, J., D’Innocenzo, G., Burnett, A. and Kay, T., 2018. What works for wellbeing? A systematic review of wellbeing outcomes for music and singing in adults. Perspectives in public health, 138(1), pp.39-46.
de Witte, M., Spruit, A., van Hooren, S., Moonen, X. and Stams, G.J., 2020. Effects of music interventions on stress-related outcomes: a systematic review and two meta-analyses. Health psychology review, 14(2), pp.294-324.
Fiore, J., 2018. A pilot study exploring the use of an online pre-composed receptive music experience for students coping with stress and anxiety. Journal of Music Therapy, 55(4), pp.383-407.
Hernandez-Ruiz, E., 2022. Music to Decrease Anxiety in College Students During the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Arts in Psychotherapy, p.101953.
Leubner, D. and Hinterberger, T., 2017. Reviewing the effectiveness of music interventions in treating depression. Frontiers in psychology, 8, p.1109.
Panteleeva, Y., Ceschi, G., Glowinski, D., Courvoisier, D.S. and Grandjean, D., 2018. Music for anxiety? Meta-analysis of anxiety reduction in non-clinical samples. Psychology of Music, 46(4), pp.473-487.
Ribeiro, F.S., Lessa, J.P.A., Delmolin, G. and Santos, F.H., 2021. Music listening in times of COVID-19 outbreak: a Brazilian study. Frontiers in psychology, 12, p.647473.
Ziv, N. and Hollander-Shabtai, R., 2022. Music and COVID-19: Changes in uses and emotional reaction to music under stay-at-home restrictions. Psychology of Music, 50(2), pp.475-491.