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The Power of Music in Reducing Stress


March 9, 2021 | Published by

Music is often seen as a form of entertainment, something to have on in the background at home or in the car. What many of us don’t realize is that music has the literal power to heal. In fact, what if we told you that you could reduce stress just by listening to music?

To start, let’s talk about how music affects your overall mood. Surely you’ve heard a certain song come on that’s prompted you to pay attention, turn it up and sing or dance along? It’s likely that song or artist has a special connection with you, leaving in a better mood. Or, maybe you just like the beat. The point is, music can have an immediate effect on mood.

Music can be such a powerful healing tool that music therapy is a very real and effective outlet. A review of research completed between 1994 to 1999 reported that in four trials, music therapy helped reduce symptoms of depression. A study from 2006 found music was able to reduce pain, depression, and disability in adults with chronic pain. Another review, performed in 2009, found music-assisted relaxation can improve quality of sleep in those with sleep disorders.1

Music and Stress

Let’s go big: can stress handle the heaviest of stresses, like illness and surgery? Several trials and studies say yes. One such study examined cataract patients set to undergo surgery. Half of the people were assigned ordinary care. The other had the same standard procedures but were able to listen to music of their choice through headphones before, during, and immediately after the operation. 1

The average blood pressure in both groups rose to 159/92 just before surgery, and in both groups the average heart rate increased by 17 beats per minute. However, the patients without music remained hypertensive throughout the operation, while the pressures of those who listened to music came down rapidly and stayed down in the recovery room. The music listeners also reported feeling calmer and better during the procedure. 1

A study of 80 patients undergoing urologic surgery under spinal anesthesia found that music can decrease the need for supplementary intravenous sedation. In this trial, patients were able to control the amount of sedative they received during their operation. Patients who were randomly assigned to listen to music needed less calming medication than those assigned to listen to white noise or to the chatter and clatter of the operating room itself. 1

Alright, so what about everyday stress? A meta-analysis of 400 studies found that music improves the body’s immune system function and reduces stress. Researchers of this analysis found that playing and listening to music increases the body’s production of the antibody immunoglobulin A and natural killer cells – the cells that attack invading viruses and boost immune defenses. They also found music reduces the levels of cortisol, the body’s primary stress hormone.2 This cortisol connection is music’s key to helping to reduce and better manage stress of all kinds.

You may be thinking, OK that’s great, but I don’t have time to listen to music all day. You may have more time for music than you think. Actually music is one of the easiest stress-reducing things we can do, since we can have it on while we’re doing other things. Here are some different ways to incorporate music into your everyday life and routine.3

Getting Ready

Music can be a great way to get your mind and body going in the morning. Classical or instrumental music can help you stay calm and focused. If you have a hectic day ahead that asks for more energy, put on something upbeat that makes you feel like dancing and moving.

During Your Commute

Whether you drive, walk, or take public transport to work, music can become a part of your commute. Music can be especially helpful if you find yourself getting stressed or feeling road rage during your drive. Listening to music on the way to and from work can get you to work and home feeling more at ease and can also make you feel less like your commute is time wasted and more enjoyable.

Cooking and Meal Prepping

Cooking for yourself and your family can be very rewarding, but not always fun. Putting on some music while you’re cooking or meal prepping for the week can make these necessary chores seem more enjoyable.


Having a clean house can itself be a stress reducer, though it can be hard to find the time and energy to keep it up. Adding some upbeat or positive music to the mix may be what you need to knock it out. You can even find ready-made cleaning playlists on streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music.

Before Bedtime

Slow, calming music before you go to sleep can help you fall asleep quicker and also calm your mind during sleep. If you find your mind races right as you lay down, definitely give this one a try.


  1. Music and health. Harvard Men’s Health Watch. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/music-and-health
  2. Novotney, A. Music as medicine. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2013/11/music
  3. Scott, E. How to Use Music for Stress Relief. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-use-music-for-stress-relief-3144689

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