It’s no major secret that music can soothe and calm us during moments of anxiety. And while it’s estimated that about 30% of American adults experience an anxiety disorder according to the National Institute of Mental Health, and professional treatment is the best way to work through such disorders, only an estimated 37% of those adults actually receive help from a professional. All this makes a recent find by sound therapists and neuroscientists just that much more intriguing.
“Weightless” by Marconi Union, is a song that was developed specifically to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and tested for its success in being able to soothe the mind. By measuring things like heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol levels in the brain, researchers were able to prove that “Weightless” effectively lowers anxiety levels by a significant amount. To be exact, simply listening to the song through headphones was found to reduce the effects of anxiety by 65%. And if you’re really up for giving it a try, there’s actually a 10-hour version.
Sound therapy is no new technique for battling anxiety. It’s already a science-backed method and now, neuroscientists have a stronger understanding of which specific types of tunes and melodies have the greatest impact on our mental state when it comes to anxiety.
For the “Weightless” study which was conducted by Mindlab International in the United Kingdom, participants were tasked with solving puzzles as quickly as possible while sensors monitored their brain activity. The puzzles themselves and the added pressure of being tasked with finishing them under deadline combined to induce stress. Meanwhile, each participant listened to certain songs while working to solve the puzzles, again while their brain activity was monitored along with the blood pressure and rate of breathing.
According to Dr. David Lewis-Hodgson of Mindlab International, “Weightless” produces a greater state of relaxation than any other song to date. To pair with that 65% reduction in anxiety levels aided by the song, researchers also found that it offers a 35% reduction in typical psychological resting rates, meaning a person doesn’t need to be under stress for it to have a calming and positive effect. The negative side of that is that researchers found “Weightless” has such a remarkable relaxing effect that it shouldn’t be listened to while driving and under stress. Dr. David Lewis-Hodgson said, "'Weightless' was so effective, many women became drowsy and I would advise against driving while listening to the song because it could be dangerous.” Moral of the story: scientifically proven anxiety-reducing songs are great to listen to under stress, but not necessarily during what’s one of the most common stress-inducing situations we all know and do often, which is driving.