Mental health: these songs are proven to reduce stress

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Douglas Broom, Senior Writer, Formative Content

  • Scientists say listening to music reduces stress and even pain.
  • Last year, 57% of Americans said music helped their mental health, more than watching TV or doing exercise.
  • Researchers have discovered the best songs for relaxation.

The power of music to reduce stress and improve mental health has been recognized for some time.

Scientists say music distracts us from our worries, while a study by Queen Mary University of London demonstrated that playing music during and after medical operations calmed patients and even reduced their pain.

More recently, a 2020 study found that 57% of Americans listen to music to manage stressful situations, compared to 40% who find exercise helpful and 33% who use video games to unwind.

this chart shows the most popular media activities for relieving stress as of September 2020
Listening to music tops this chart as the most popular activity for stress relief. Image: Statista

So how does it work?

Music’s ability to help us relax rests on the fact that it is a non-verbal and pre-verbal language connecting people to experiences in their early life, writes provisional psychologist Heather Craig in Positive Psychology.

“It allows all people to interact in a more emotional, relationship-oriented way than may be possible relying on verbal language,” she adds. Professor Victoria Tischler of the UK’s Exeter University says music’s emotional connection is at the heart of its success in reducing stress.

“This can be therapeutic for the songwriter or composer and also the listener who identifies with similar experiences, and so reduces feelings of social isolation,” Prof Tischler, told the i newspaper.

this is Adele performing, who sings one of the top stress relieving songs
Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’ is one of the top stress relieving songs. Image: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

“Listening to music together at a concert or a festival increases feelings of social connectedness, this elevates mood and builds relationships and connections that are protective against mental distress.”

Dr David Lewis of the Mindlab at the UK’s Sussex University had already conducted research that showed that listening to music was more relaxing than drinking a cup of tea, walking and playing video games. He then set out to identify the best tunes for stress reduction.

Which songs are the most effective?

Dr Lewis and his team examined 16 relaxing songs for their ability to relieve stress, and compared their effects against a massage, as well as a specially commissioned spa track.

this is a list of the top 16 songs for relieving stress, with Someone Like You by Adele at number 1
According to a test, these are the 16 most relaxing songs. Image: MindLab

By measuring the effect of the music on participants’ heart rate, breathing and skin conductance – a measure of stress in the whole body – the researchers could establish which songs had the greatest impact in terms of relaxation.

this shows a biometrically calculated relaxation score for all the music in the study
These are the songs from the study which had the greatest relaxation impact. Image: MindLab

While all of the tracks decreased levels of the stress hormone ‘cortisol’ in the 20 participants, they were no match for either the massage, or the spa track.

‘Weightless’ by Macaroni Union, which was commissioned by Radox Spa, achieved a relaxation score of 73%, nearly 11 percentage points higher than any of the other relaxation tracks, as well as a 6% increase on the relaxing effects of a massage.

Indeed, the song is so effective at reducing stress, Dr Lewis told the i newspaper, that he “would advise against driving while listening to the song because it could be dangerous”.

Why is ‘Weightless’ so relaxing?

The song’s secret is its rhythm, says Lyz Cooper, founder of the British Academy of Sound Therapy, who led the commissioning team. It slows gradually from 60 to 50 beats per minute, resulting in a matching slow-down in the listener’s own heart rate.

“It takes about five minutes for this process, known as entrainment, to occur,” Cooper told Forbes magazine. “And there is no repeating melody, which allows your brain to completely switch off because you are no longer trying to predict what is coming next.”

What is the World Economic Forum doing about mental health?

One in four people will experience mental illness in their lives, costing the global economy an estimated $6 trillion by 2030.

Mental ill-health is the leading cause of disability and poor life outcomes in young people aged 10–24 years, contributing up to 45% of the overall burden of disease in this age-group. Yet globally, young people have the worst access to youth mental health care within the lifespan and across all the stages of illness (particularly during the early stages).

In response, the Forum has launched a global dialogue series to discuss the ideas, tools and architecture in which public and private stakeholders can build an ecosystem for health promotion and disease management on mental health.

One of the current key priorities is to support global efforts toward mental health outcomes – promoting key recommendations toward achieving the global targets on mental health, such as the WHO Knowledge-Action-Portal and the Countdown Global Mental Health

Read more about the work of our Platform for Shaping the Future of Health and Healthcare, and contact us to get involved.

‘Airstream’ by Electra was found to be the second-most relaxing tune, while ‘Sǣglopur’ by Sigur Rôs was the least.

The top nine tracks are available as a playlist on Spotify.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Fairness in the food supply chain: Commission proposes to increase price transparency

3 things you need to know about securing a blockchain

A ‘strong and united Europe’ has never been more needed, declares UN chief Guterres

The West and Russia took what they wanted from Ukraine

InvestEU Fund: boost for sustainable, innovative and social investment

$683 million appeal to deliver reproductive health services, where they’re most needed

State aid: Commission refers United Kingdom to European Court for failure to fully recover illegal tax exemption aid of up to around €100 million in Gibraltar

France and Poland to block David Cameron’s plans on immigration

Safety fits into our palms: The role of mobile technology in healthcare systems and life saving

Closing the data gap: a cost-effective way to improve air quality

How do you make supply chains more visible without compromising security? A Dutch start-up may have the answer

Marking international day, UN experts call for urgent action to end racial discrimination, in wake of New Zealand anti-Muslim attack

Agreement reached on new EU measures to prevent electricity blackouts

Global Citizen-Volunteer Internships

European Parliament marks EU accession prospects for Serbia and Kosovo

Traditional knowledge at ‘core’ of indigenous heritage, and ‘must be protected’, says UN Forum

A Sting Exclusive: “Accelerating Trade Digitalization in Times of the Pandemic”, written by the UN Under-Secretary-General and Head of ESCAP

Wolfgang Schäuble: “Without European unification, there would be no German unity”

‘Brutal weather’ continues as Rohingya refugee children endure devastating rainfall in Bangladesh

Trump’s self-centered politics unravels

Business management: how can you introduce new ideas?

One day your doctor might prescribe healthy food and a museum visit – here’s why

Here’s why human-robot collaboration is the future of manufacturing

Victims’ Rights: New Strategy to empower victims

Failing to see reality or deceiving the masses? The EU about poverty and social exclusion

Green Deal: Coal and other carbon-intensive regions and the Commission launch the European Just Transition Platform

These 10 golden rules for planting trees could help save the planet

Why the world needs systems leadership, not selfish leadership

These are the 3 key skill sets workers will need to learn by 2030

Finland must focus on integrating migrant women and their children to boost their contribution to the economy and society

Brain Drain: Follow your dreams, wherever they might take you

These 4 scenarios show how we might be working in the future

Fuel crisis rapidly draining last ‘coping capacities’ of Palestinians in Gaza

UN agriculture agency chief calls on world’s mayors to make ‘global commitments local realities’

6 ways travelling professionals can cut their carbon footprint

Why are the financial markets shivering again?

Parliament adopts deal to improve quality of tap water and reduce plastic litter

3 ways activists are being targeted by cyberattacks

When will life return to ‘pre-COVID normal’?

5 things to know about the exploding world of pro gaming

MEPs reach deal with Council on obligation for EU to be climate neutral by 2050

We want to hear about Europe our citizens are dreaming of, says von der Leyen about the upcoming Conference on the Future of Europe

EU Parliament approves CETA: the EU-Canada free trade deal sees the light in Trump’s gloomy era

10 expert predictions for the next decade in Chinese AI

Banking on sunshine: world added far more solar than fossil fuel power generating capacity in 2017

Thai citizenship means ‘dream of a brighter future’ for cave rescue boys, says UN Refugee Agency

3 charts that show how attitudes to climate science vary around the world

New OECD work to support citizen engagement with governments

A Sting Exclusive live from Brussels: Solheim’s consequential visit leading the world and the UN

7 top things to know about coronavirus today

Coronavirus: Commission steps up research funding with €120 million for 11 new projects to tackle the virus and its variants

What does a good digital ID look like?

EU Commission: Growth first then fiscal consolidation

More than 90 per cent of Africa migrants would make perilous Europe journey again, despite the risks

This entrepreneur built an island resort out of plastic waste

UN experts urge Turkey to repatriate Irish woman associated with terror group

South African women’s fury at gender-based attacks spills onto the streets

These countries are the most peaceful – in 3 charts

This farmer used an age-old technique to save his soil and now his farm is prospering

Union of Equality: The Commission presents its first-ever strategy on LGBTIQ equality in the EU

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: