How often do you feel a sudden surge of anxiety? It can come out of nowhere and send you into a spiral — but before you let the nagging feeling ruin your day, you might want to consider hitting play on some soothing tunes instead.
It may sound too simple, but there’s compelling science to back it up. After all, it’s not just our mood or our minds that can be adversely affected by frequent pangs of anxiety. “When we experience anxiety, our heart and breathing rates increase and many other systems in our bodies experience overload,” Elizabeth Coombes, a music therapist from the University of Wales, wrote in a recent post for The Conversation. “Anxiety affects our general physical health as well as our emotions.”
Coombes has observed the positive impact music can have on her patients with anxiety, but it can’t just be any tune. When it comes to the best type of music to ease those nerves, she says “the speed of the music should be relatively slow, the melody should be simple, and the beat and harmony should not hold too many surprises.”
That all certainly sounds relaxing, but another interesting discovery she found was that relying on music you’ve known and loved for years might not actually help. “In fact, knowing a piece too well was found in some cases to be counterproductive,” she claimed. Sorry Beatles fans, but that means “Hey Jude” might not cut it.
With all that in mind, Coombes also helpfully included a few musical choices she would recommend trying out the next time anxiety strikes.
If you’re looking for something long to listen to, she suggested an entire album called Ambient 1: Music For Airports by Brian Eno. The title doesn’t sound all that exciting but, remember, that’s a good thing in this case. “This soundscape provides a wash of musical effects that echo the rhythm of our physiological functions, leaving space for us to attune to the slow tempo of the music,” Coombes explained. You can buy online ($7.99, Amazon) or hit play below:
Although Coombes warned against listening to songs you know really well, she did recommend a massive hit most of us have heard way more than several times: “Someone Like You” by Adele. Coombes explained that despite being so well-known — and the subject matter of the lyrics is a bit of a bummer — the slow tempo can help invoke a sense of calm and reflection. You can find the song on Adele’s album 21 ($10.99, Amazon), or hit play below to see if it helps you feel soothed.
You can click here to check out the rest of Coombe’s recommendations, or just take all of her advice and piece together your own playlist to have on hand when you feel anxiety starting to set in. It might take a little trial and error, but if at the end of the day you’re feeling happier and healthier, it’ll be totally worth it.
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