Head of Music at Calm, Courtney Phillips explains the benefits of listening to music on the mind, body and soul.
Listening to music has so many benefits— it can help our physical, mental and emotional well-being, regulate our emotions and mood, enhance productivity and even help us sleep better.
Studies have shown that genres like instrumental, classical or ambient can even help reduce anxiety by up to 65%. While picking up a mindfulness practice might sound intimidating, there are plenty of ways to start small.
Listening to music is an easy, approachable place to begin engaging in mindful, meditative activities that can bring some ease. Here are some of the ways turning on the right tunes can help you feel better.
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Settle the mind and relax the body
Playing calming music is great when you’re feeling overwhelmed or uptight. Listening to some soft soundscapes, instrumentals or nature sounds can help soothe stress and induce relaxation by slowing your breathing and heart rate, lowering your blood pressure, and reducing the body’s levels of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.
Elevate your mood
Make a playlist of your favorite songs for when you are feeling low, carve out five minutes and turn on music you can sing along or dance to — this encourages the release of endorphins, the body’s ‘happy’ chemical.
Try listening to Calm’s many collections of remixed songs from some of the biggest artists including 5SOS, Kygo, Ellie Goulding, mau5trap and more to get you in a good mood.
Support concentration and focus
Listening to music while working can help improve focus, increase alertness and boost mental performance. So the next time you feel your concentration lagging, tune into some stimulating tracks to help power up your attention.
Process tough emotions
Listening to lyrics that validate our emotions can make us feel less alone, and sad songs often help us process those feelings. Upbeat music, on the other hand, can give the boost people need to feel hopeful and promote emotional wellbeing.
Make a playlist for ups and downs as research shows a fast musical tempo can evoke positive emotions such as happiness or excitement, while music with slow tempo can evoke lower emotions.
Mindful listening grounds us in the present moment and helps us witness whatever arises with less reactivity. To develop our mindfulness practice through music, try listening intentionally to a song and notice its melody, rhythm and tone.
To help enhance this practice, I recommend closing your eyes and focusing on the sounds and emotions the music evokes – and if your mind wanders, bring it gently back to the music.
Recall fond memories
When we listen to the same music repeatedly, our brain creates associations and the emotions that arise become embedded in our memory. So, when we hit replay on a song (even years later), we immediately reconnect with the feelings we were experiencing at the time. This is especially beneficial if we want to recall joyful memories or even capture positive moments in the present.
Boost motivation and energy
Fast-paced, upbeat music accelerates your heartbeat and gives you a burst of energy, fuelling motivation and maximising performance. The next time you want to get into gear or start a task you’ve been putting off, try playing your favourite energising tracks. I recommend our Afternoon Pick-Me-Up playlist to beat the post-lunch slump.
Listen to music when you feel isolated or lonely as it can help generate a sense of belonging and connection. It does this by triggering the release of oxytocin, the ‘love’ hormone that helps us cultivate empathy, trust, and compassion for others.
Promote restful sleep
Listening to relaxing melodies before bed can calm the nervous system, slow your breathing, lower your heart rate and reduce your blood pressure. This can help you fall asleep and stay asleep for longer.
Try incorporating soothing music into your evening wind-down routine like the recent addition of Keith Urban’s 60-minute long Sleep Song, I Am Home.
Listening to songs that match our emotional experience can help us connect with and process feelings like sadness, anger, excitement and joy.
Research has also shown the first thing the brain does when music enters is triggers pleasure centres including dopamine release, so simply turning on the radio or streaming your favourite song can help improve moods.
Courtney Phillips is Head of Music at Calm. Phillips has worked at William Morris Endeavor and later moving to Universal Music Group. From booking bands for SXSW, producing global concerts, and being an artist’s rep on sets, Phillips’ deep industry knowledge helped her develop Calm Music when she joined in 2019 as Head of Music.