How to use music to calm anxiety? And is just music enough?
Music – especially the right music to lift your mood – can have a rapid impact on your mind and body. When it’s paired with a breathing technique you need as little as two to ten minutes to balance your nervous system and guide your body to its ‘rest & digest’ mode. This is the parasympathetic branch of the Autonomous Nervous System – I like to think of it as the green zone. This is where you want to live your life.
There may be times in your day when you need a self-imposed time out. Maybe you’ve been on the go a lot or working hard to deliver something from your desk and you feel you need more than your usual break.
Try one of these three different ways to use music to calm anxiety. Each song is paired with a breathing technique to bring balance to your nervous system. The benefits are immediate and can last for quite some period of time afterwards.
Hum to music to calm anxiety
Humming provides beneficial therapeutic effects to the body.
- It activates your vagus nerve which turns off your fight or flight reflex. Humming creates vibrations that stimulate the vagus nerve near your vocal chords.
- It triggers the release of feel-good neurotransmitters like endorphins & oxytocin to promote feelings of relaxation.
- It increases the production of nitric oxide in the nasal area. This gas is a bronchodilator, which means it makes breathing easier by relaxingthe muscles in the lungs and widening the airways. It’s crucial to your immune system as it has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and anti-fungal properties.
- It creates self-soothing sounds which drown out your negative voice or give you a break from following endless thought loops.
I find humming along to a tune easier than practising a straight humming technique like bhramari breath (bumble bee breath). I often use the song below to open my group yoga class with some humming. They all agree humming and this song is a great way to use music to calm anxiety.
Sit in a comfortable position – can be lotus pose on your mat, or in a chair – and follow Beautiful Chorus as they hum the song.
Tune into the vibrations in your throat, head and chest area and allow the music to calm your anxiety and lead you to relaxation.
The song is six minutes long, so you may want to use the first couple of minutes to understand that they hum phrases of three notes then four notes.
On timing it, I discovered it gives you an inhale of 3 seconds and an exhale of 8 seconds. This longer exhale is perfect for relaxing the body – the combination of humming and music to calm anxiety here is exceptional. Try it!
Use Coherent Breathing music to calm anxiety
Coherent breathing quietens over an active sympathetic nervous system and raises the activity of the parasympathetic system – the ‘rest & digest’ branch.
It is also known as Resonant Breathing or Heart-Focused Breathing because it creates coherence, or resonance between the brain and the heart waves. Research by the HeartMath Institute has shown that the slower breathing rhythm makes the brain waves adapt to the rhythm of the breath.
This breathing method affects what is known as Heart Rate Variability (HRV), or the rate at which the heart beat changes. A higher HRV is correlated with health and longevity.
It is an incredibly calming practice and by focusing on the heart you may find you are better able to tap into your intuition.
Use specially composed music to calm anxiety
I love this album by Rosie Chan. I often use her music to calm anxiety and sometimes I play it to my group yoga class in their final savasana or in my personal yoga practice. The Air We Breathe (below) has got to be my favourite piece of music to calm anxiety and help release tension.
If you go to the Sonic Apothecary website, you can answer a few questions and it will choose the track to match your mood. Pretty cool, eh?
The optimum position to release stress, would be to lie in semi-supine pose (as illustrated below).
Although you need your muscles to get into the pose, once there, it’s your bones that keep you in position. This allows your muscles to relax and release any tension they are holding.
Enjoy these three ways to use music to calm anxiety and release tension.
Let me know how you get on.