What Happens to the Brain when listening to Music?


We turn on the TV, check our social media, turn on the radio and all we hear is Coronavirus here, there, everywhere. For some people the constant reminder of a situation can add more anxiety and stress to the already overwhelming problem. 

There are various methods to relieve stress like going for a walk, reading a book or listening to your favorite artist on Spotify or iTunes but what exactly happens to the brain when we listen to music? What causes the stress relief besides simply saying “it makes you feel good and smile.” 

According to an article by the University of Nevada at Reno, music with around 60 beats per minute causes the brain to sync with the music and release alpha waves the same types of waves that are present when we are relaxed. Some of us however like to put one our headphones and snooze off for a bit after a long day at work or school. In this case, it is recommended that we tone down the music to about 45 beats per minute to induce sleep. Researchers at Stanford University have said that listening to calming music can change brain function to the same extent as medication. The article from Reno can be found here. The article from Stanford can be found here

So, what kind of music is the best to relieve stress? How do we know if the music that we are listening to is 60 beats per minute or 45? The short answer: It is up to personal preference. Interestingly though Native American, Celtic, and Indian stringed-instruments, drums, and flutes are very effective at relaxing the mind even when played moderately loud. And for all of the nature lovers out there who enjoy listening to rain, thunder and the like, mixing it with some light jazz or classical can be just as effective. 

One that note, we also don’t want to be ineffective while trying to de-stress. This means don’t force yourself to listen to something that you don’t like. This can have a negative effect and cause tension instead of relieving it. The golden rule is this:, you must first like what you are listening to before it can have any sort of positive impact on how you are feeling. 

There are plenty of music streaming providers out there such as Pandora, Spotify or iTunes to name a few so on your down time take a few minutes and scroll through some playlists and find what you like or try something new to relax. Stay Positive!