Written by: Sevim Sarıoğlu | Copy Edited by: Meg McKeon
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Music is the sound of life. Making food taste better, the view seem more colorful, and deepening our love for others. It’s incredible how a combination of certain notes can carry us to places we’d never before imagined. Music can describe the indescribable. While many people around the world enjoy music, the impact of a single piece is special on an individual level. Music is both universal and personal at the same time. It can evoke strong feelings or memories, bringing us even more joy when we’re happy or striking a particularly poignant and heartbreaking note when we’re sad.
You can experience the impact of music through your meditation practice. Instead of guided meditations, you can benefit from meditative music in your moments of mindfulness. If you haven’t tried it yet, giving yourself to a beat you love while practicing mindfulness can be a revelatory experience. It’s possible to meditate with sounds of the wind, waves, and raindrops along with other rhythmic melodies in the background. You can also create a calm and peaceful ambiance for your mindfulness practices with the soothing rhythms of instruments such as the kalimba, crystal bowl, or harp.
As far as our personal experience, we can say that meditative music can have a relaxing effect. Beyond that, research shows that music actually helps reduce anxiety and stress.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is something all of us experience at least once in a while throughout our lives. Like other feelings, anxiety is a survival response that is part of our lives. We may feel anxious in response to challenges, threats, change, or uncertainty.
We may, for example, experience anxiety when we’re faced with the uncertainty of the future. Our mind often focuses on the future, trying to determine what might happen, trying to prepare for the unknown. Anxiety is also rooted in our need to feel in control. When we have to reckon with the unknown, it can feel like we’re losing control and we may experience anxiety in these moments.
Moderate levels of anxiety are considered acceptable and healthy, functioning to keep us vigilant in case of danger. Anxiety can also be related to increased control and problem-solving skills, as moderate levels of anxiety keep us motivated to work harder toward our goals.
What is stress?
Stress is our body’s response to a particular demand that creates feelings of physical or emotional tension. Stress can be either experienced in short periods (acute stress) or over long stretches of time (chronic stress). Just like anxiety, stress is a natural part of the human experience from time to time. All feelings and emotions have their function, but prolonged or chronic stress can have harmful effects on our mental health and overall well-being.
What happens in our bodies when we get anxious or stressed?
When we’re feeling stressed or anxious, our autonomic nervous system kicks in. Primarily, in cases of danger, the sympathetic component of the system activates. We may feel our heart rate increase and breathing quicken as our body secretes adrenaline to keep us energized and ready to fight or flee. Our primitive minds take the lead in the case of a perceived threat and our more evolved, prefrontal cortex may not be as dominant in those moments.
This response is understandable if the threat we’re facing is an acute danger such as a wild animal. However, in our modern lives, we face different types of threats like social neglect or fear of failure. In those cases, our minds cannot detect a clear target, which makes us even more anxious because we cannot accurately pinpoint the threat. Not knowing the source of this challenging feeling makes it harder to understand the situation and to relieve the tension.
Meditation music: how it affects anxiety and stress
It’s widely understood that meditation can help to alleviate anxiety and stress. But are there additional effects when it comes to meditative music? Research says so:
There’s a vast amount of scientific evidence showing that music makes our lives better. Listening to meditative, relaxing music can be one of the most effective methods used to cope with stress. Music can also be a therapeutic tool used to help with emotional regulation, alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety, manage pain, and relieve stress.
Research shows that listening to music impacts the psychobiological stress system. A study showed that listening to meditative music as compared to resting quietly was more effective in reducing anxiety, implying that meditative music can be used as a method for relaxation. Additionally, in the presence of a stressor, individuals who listen to relaxing music tend to recover faster, as it has a calming effect, reducing the hormonal stress responses.
Classical music and meditative music are the most effective types of music in clinical settings to regulate the cardiovascular system and reduce anxiety by decreasing cortisol secretion and lowering cerebral flow.
A few words for our anxious minds
Anxiety is part of you, but it doesn’t define you. Our emotions are valid, but they are also guests. We don’t have to ignore them or try to push them away. Each feeling has its purpose, even if we don’t always understand what that may be. It’s all information we can use to better understand ourselves.
It’s okay if you have a hard time when you’re anxious. Validate and accept your feelings. Sometimes, it may seem like this feeling is going to last forever. But, you’re free not to follow that emotion and it will pass eventually. It won’t last forever and it doesn’t define you.
If you’re wanting to hop into your practice now, there’s a home for you in Meditopia. In the app, you can read many informative blog posts on mindfulness and meditation, exploring new perspectives, and gaining insight into countless topics in life. You can also choose from many guided meditations.
If you’re feeling like you need to sit with yourself for a little bit, you can do this with various types of music and meditative sounds without any guidance. By participating in live challenges and meditating with hundreds of people from all over the world, you can fully experience the feeling of unity and belonging as well. We’re sure that taking some time for yourself every day, especially during intense and stressful days, will add zest and joy to every aspect of your life. You can also set a reminder for yourself to make a daily habit out of mindfulness practice.