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In this paper, I outline the effect of music as a natural laxative and explore studies that have been done to examine the effect of music on our health. Though Dr. Seaward’s work on stress management is extensive, I have taken the liberty to explore a number of other, equally authoritative studies on music as well.
The power of slow and quiet music as an effective relaxation technique is widely acknowledged because of its strong link to our emotions. In addition, music has a physiological effect on our bodies. Slow and moderate tempo music counteracts the effects of stress by reducing the production of stress hormones. In addition, it lowers the heart rate and blood pressure. Classical music has particularly been known to be quite effective in relieving stress and making the listener relax.
Research and Studies on Music’s Effect on Health
Recent scientific studies show that singing along one’s favourite music can also have a great releasing effect on tension. Again, calming music may also help induce sleep, and by extension relieve stress (Seaward, 2012). The relaxing effect may also be explained from the fact that slow music also tends to slow down the brain and induce the release of ‘feel-good’ hormones (Seaward, 2012).
Meditation is a powerful relaxation technique, and it can be easily induced by music. The sounds of nature, sometimes incorporated into musical compositions, have a tendency to call forth a soothing effect. This in turn induces a relaxed mood and stress relief (Collingwood, 2007).
Given the strong correlation that music has with meditation and stress reduction, the discipline and practice of stress therapy has slowly come to the forefront as an important tool for stress management (Collingwood, 2007). Additionally, “when used in combination with biofeedback techniques, music can reduce tension and facilitate the relaxation response” (Collingwood, 2007, Music Therapy, para. 1).
Though it is generally agreed that listening to music produces relaxation, it is not yet widely agreed what genre is most effective. In a research study by Valorie Salimpor from Rotman Institute in Toronto (cited in Landau, 2013), participants listened to 60 excerpts of music they had never heard before while in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine.
Findings from this research indicated that certain components of the brain, that is, the nucleus accumbens and the temporal gyrus play a role in determining which music one is likely to like. Their work is based on ‘templates’ that have been stored in the brain which pre-dispose individuals to like music they have listened to more often than that which they have not (Landau, 2013).
Another study corroborated the thesis that music has physiological benefits. Cited by Landau (2013), the study involved researchers looking at the effect of music to patients just about to go into surgery. Randomly, participants were either given anti-anxiety drugs or listen to music. The patient’s own ratings of their own anxiety were monitored as well as the level of the stress hormone cortisol.
It was found that those who listened to music had less anxiety compared to those who took anti-anxiety pills. In the same study, the researchers also discovered that music bolsters the immune system in their evidence that music is closely linked to Immunoglobin A, an antibody. In an experiment by Dr. Mike Miller, the effects of music on the cardiovascular system were tested using high-tech imaging.
Miller measured blood vessel size during a music-listening session. He found that listening to music that one enjoys tends to open up and relax the blood vessels and also produce chemicals protective to the heart (Willingham, 2009). This profound effect on physiological processes may be what brings about a corresponding psychological effect of relaxation.
Collingwood, J. (2007). The Power of Music to Reduce Stress. Web.
Landau, E. (2013, April 15). This is your brain on music. Web.
Seaward, B.L. (2012). Managing stress: Principles and strategies for health and well- being (7th Edition). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
Willingham, V. (2009, May 11). The power of music: It’s a real heart opener. Web.