The power of music for a calm state of mind

Music is an extremely powerful tool. It has tremendous benefits for mood regulation and stress management. As it influences us with its relaxing effects on our minds and bodies, in turn, it also helps to relieve stress. This means listening to music just might be the answer for those who are looking to melt their stresses away.

But is there an actual scientific explanation for this? There is indeed! In this blog, we highlight the reasons why music can relieve stress, and how it can create stronger connections for those living with dementia. 

What is stress exactly? 

Before we delve into the power of music to relieve stress, it’s important to understand what stress is exactly. Stress — known as the feeling of emotional tension, overwhelm or feeling unable to cope — affects us mentally and physically. On a biological level, our bodies respond to stressful situations by releasing hormones such as cortisol. Short-term, cortisol can help us find the focus and energy we need to deal with a difficult situation. However, when the body is exposed to excess cortisol for a long period of time, it causes exhausting states of fight, flight or freeze. This can then lead to feelings of anxiousness, as well as physical problems like excessive inflammation and compromised immune system function.

How can music reduce stress? 

Interestingly, music has been proven to minimise stress and anxiety levels. Here’s what the research says: 

1) Music reduces your cortisol levels 

Listening to music has the inherent ability to decrease cortisol production, which in-turn minimises psychological stress and anxiety. Additionally, music helps boost feel-good chemicals in your brain known as dopamine. Dopamine is a kind of naturally occurring chemical we receive as part of a reward system, responsible for our experiencing happiness. 

2) Music can calm your nervous system 

Studies have shown that even short exposure to music can decrease heart rate and blood pressure, leading to a condition of focused attention that is proportional to the speed of the music. That’s why if you’re feeling anxious, a relaxed tempo will help moderate your body’s functioning to bring you down from that heightened nervous state.

3) Music fosters connection 

Some scientists believe that music allowed our ancestors to communicate before the invention of language, and to this day, it continues to connect us to one another. As we’ve previously highlighted, music is linked to dopamine release, which brings us to a state of pleasure. In turn, this impacts our brain circuits involved in empathy, trust, and cooperation. According to Ringgold, author of Sonic Recovery: Harness the Power of Music to Stay Sober, “When we play music with others, we connect to them by proxy. One voice, one melody, one rhythm, all connected in the present moment.”

The power of music in dementia 

Whilst calming music has been shown to decrease stress in everyone, this is also true for those living with dementia. A large number of studies claim that music intervention has positive effects on behaviour, agitation, mood, and cognition in dementia. In fact, according to a study on the benefits of Silver Memories Radio by the Department of Health, it was found that residents from a range of aged care facilities showed a significant improvement in quality of life, depression, aggressive and verbally agitated behaviour after listening to Silver Memories for 12 months as part of their regular activities. 

Therefore, listening to or singing songs can provide emotional and behavioural benefits for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. Over and above that, it also benefits caregivers by lightening the mood and providing a way to connect with those who have Alzheimer’s disease, especially those who have difficulty communicating. 

In conclusion, music is a tool with many benefits. Not only is it calming, but it can also have positive effects on the mind and spirit. This is why it simply can’t be ignored as one of the most important and effective tools in treatment when it comes to supporting someone who has dementia.