Most people have a favorite song or favorite type of music, find meaning in the words of some songs, and associate joy with some songs. A favorite song coming on the radio while driving often results in the volume up and singing along, and a favorite song heard while at home often results in dancing around the house or at least a little toe-tapping. Quieter songs are enjoyed by many for relaxation or sleep. Aside from the daily pleasures music can bring, it has gained significant attention as a therapeutic intervention. Per the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), music therapy is an evidence-based intervention in which music is used to address the physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals. To become a credentialed music therapist there are requirements that must be met, including obtaining a bachelor’s degree or higher in music therapy. A music therapist aims to determine a client’s strengths and needs to then decide if creating, singing, moving to, and/or listening to music should be included in treatment. For many with mental health symptoms, music therapy provides a form of therapy that is engaging, meaningful, interesting and fun, and results in improvement of symptoms, such as reducing depression or anxiety.

For those who do not enjoy vocal components to their music, there are alternatives. Music does not always have to have words we can sing along to or that resonate with our life circumstances for us to benefit. One example comes from the band Marconi Union. Marconi Union collaborated with the British Academy of Sound Therapy with a goal of creating music to help reduce a listener’s anxiety by slowing their heart rate, reducing blood pressure, and lowering levels of cortisol (i.e., stress hormone). From this, the album Weightless was born. In an effort to see if Marconi Union’s Weightless album was successful in its goal, a study was conducted by Mindlab International in which participants were asked to solve difficult puzzles as quickly as possible while connected to sensors. While working on the stress inducing puzzles, the participants listened to different songs and the researchers measured brain activity and physiological states (i.e., heart rate, blood pressure, and rate of breathing). According to Dr. David Lewis-Hodgson, a neuropsychologist at Mindlab International, Weightless resulted in a 65% reduction in participants’ overall anxiety and a 35% reduction in their usual physiological resting states. Notably, Dr. Lewis-Hodgson advises against driving while listening to the song, as many women in the study were observed to become drowsy. Aside from Marconi Union’s Weightless, here are some other options of relaxing tracks:

  • Electra by Airstream
  • Mellomaniac (Chill Out Mix) by DJ Shah
  • Watermark by Enya
  • Strawberry Swing by Coldplay
  • Please Don’t Go by Barcelona
  • Pure Shores by All Saints
  • Someone Like You by Adele
  • Canzonetta Sull’aria by Mozart
  • We Can Fly by Rue du Soleil (Café Del Mar)

Research has provided evidence that music therapy contributes to an increase in expression of feelings, physical well-being, the client’s motivation to engage in treatment, and overall emotional support for the client and their families. To most of us, it is not surprising that music can be therapeutic, and can be utilized by trained clinicians to help people feel better. To quote Simon and Garfunkel: Ba da da da da feelin’ groovy… ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫