How Music Reduces Stress in Hospital Waiting Rooms

Music can have powerful effects on our emotions. Its ability to soothe is well-established, providing a relaxing effect on our minds and bodies that offers a number of health benefits, including lowering blood pressure, decreasing levels of stress hormones, and even slowing the pulse and heart rate. It can also act as a distraction, preventing our minds from focusing on worrying thoughts.

A 2008 study conducted by the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine found a statistically significant decrease in anxiety in adults who were accompanying children to the emergency room on days when music was playing. Researchers concluded that using music was an easy and useful way to decrease the anxiety of visitors in an emergency department area.

Of course, we probably don’t need to tell you that music can help ease anxiety in many stressful situations. Many of us have experienced its power, and turn to it frequently to help boost our mood or make us feel more calm.

A 2007 study conducted by researchers from the College of Nursing at Kaohsiung Medical University in Taiwan found that music therapy can reduce psychological stress among pregnant women.

The study involved 116 pregnant women who were assigned to a music group and 120 pregnant women assigned to a control group. Those in the music group showed significant reductions in stress, anxiety and depression after just two weeks, while the control group showed a much smaller reduction in stress and very little or no improvement in anxiety and depression.

A more recent, 2013 study out of the University of Zurich, revealed that listening to music can significantly reduce stress and even decrease cortisol levels. It impacts the psychobiological stress system as well as the nervous system and, to a lesser degree, the endocrine system, although scientists are still trying to figure out what’s going on in our brains when we listen to music and how it produces such powerful effects on the psyche.

Research has suggested that music benefits our physical and mental health in many ways, and can even help us cope with pain. Studies have found that it can meaningfully reduce the perceived intensity of pain, particularly in geriatric care, intensive care, and palliative medicine, which focuses on preventing and relieving patient suffering.

Listening to music can also help induce a meditative state, and slow music beats in particular can alter brainwave speed, creating brainwave activity similar to when one is meditating, or in a hypnotic state.

Research from Stanford University  suggested that using rhythmic stimuli, like music, to induce these states can have a therapeutic effect, easing symptoms of PMS, migraines and behavioral issues.

If you’d like to experience some of these effects, keep in mind that certain music does help to slow the mind and initiate the relaxation response, but not all meditative music works for everyone.

musicYou may need to search around and try different types to determine which produces a sense of calm for you. Then, on those especially stressful days, find a peaceful place, put on some headphones, and enjoy – for your better health!

-The Alternative Daily

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