For generations, people all over the world have turned to music to induce calmness and relaxation. Studies have shown that listening to music can have stress-reducing qualities, and this has been compiled in a systematic review and meta-analysis.
In brief, there are several ways in which music can help to bring us comfort:
- Music can reduce stress hormones. Listening to music can help to reduce the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in our bodies. When we are worried, our bodies produce cortisol, which can lead to a range of physical and emotional symptoms. Listening to the right music can help to lower these levels, which can create more margin in our lives, and in turn, help us to feel more centered.
- Music can slow down our heart rate. Music can help to slow down our heart rate by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, known to promote relaxation. When we listen to music that truly soothes us, our heart rate and breathing will entrain to a variety of musical elements including the melody or tempo. Our deep connection, and engagement with the music, can help us to feel more relaxed and calm, and even lower our blood pressure.
- Music can distract us during times we feel locked up. When we are feeling anxious or stressed, listening to music can provide a welcome distraction. Our focus shifts to the music, and our thoughts and emotions become absorbed by the rhythm, melody, and lyrics. This can provide the brain interrupt we need to slow the cycle of worry and promote relaxation.
- Music can trigger nostalgic memories and emotions. Certain songs or pieces of music activate neural pathways and release dopamine in the brain. When we listen to these pieces, they can help us feel more connected. When we feel in tune with others we can feel a deep sense of comfort and calm.
As I prepared to present to the Alzheimer Society of Canada last month I sent out a survey to curate ‘the top 25 songs that brings us comfort’ for their specific group – a group that recognizes the individuality of each person with their own unique life experiences, personality, values, beliefs and opinions. It is therefore important to note that their playlist is for their specific group for a very specific moment in time.
Top 25 Songs that Bring Us Comfort
So let me share with you the curated songs that soothe that help us find calm, strength and balance when we need it the most.
- “What a Wonderful World” – Louis Armstrong
- “Over the Rainbow” – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
- “Stairway to Heaven” – Led Zeppelin
- “Moon River” – Andy Williams
- “Bridge Over Troubled Water” – Simon & Garfunkel
- “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” – Judy Garland
- “Unchained Melody” – The Righteous Brothers
- “Amazing Grace” – Celtic Woman
- “The Sound of Silence” – Simon & Garfunkel
- “Time to Say Goodbye” – Andrea Bocelli & Sarah Brightman
- “What a Wonderful World” – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
- “Morning Has Broken” – Cat Stevens
- “Don’t Stop Believin'” – Journey
- “You Raise Me Up” – Josh Groban
- “I Will Always Love You” – Whitney Houston
- “Someone Like You” – Adele
- “Wind Beneath My Wings” – Bette Midler
- “Hallelujah” – Jeff Buckley
- “The Rose” – Bette Midler
- “You’ve Got a Friend” – Carole King
- “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” – Stevie Wonder
- “Bridge Over Troubled Water” – Elvis Presley
- “The Prayer” – Celine Dion & Andrea Bocelli
- “I Dreamed a Dream” – Les Miserables Soundtrack
- “Orinoco Flow” – Enya
Listen to the Top 25 Songs that Soothe Playlist As selected by the Alzheimer Society of Canada.
It turns out that a well-crafted playlist is more than just a pretty cool time machine. It can provide comfort and wellness and transport us to a better place.
Making music work at work is not always a smooth process. This is possibly the most challenging environment for finding musical common ground — which is one of the reasons why, in most work environments, people listening to music are usually doing so through their earphones or headphones. They’re not sharing their music because of all the challenges we’ve just been discussing, and the fact that our musical tastes are so incredibly personal and preferential.
You might be interested to know that, in one study from the University of Illinois, researchers found that listening to music in all types of work settings increased work output by 6.3 percent. According to Dr. Teresa Lesiuk, people who listen to music complete their tasks more quickly and come up with better ideas than those who don’t. “When you’re stressed,” she says, “you might make a decision more hastily; you have a very narrow focus of attention. When you’re in a positive mood, you’re able to take in more options.”If you have visited my blog before, or heard me speak, it will not surprise you to learn that no one piece of music affects another person in the same way – and a variety of music can soothe us at different times in our life.
As you consider your ‘Top 25 Songs that Brings You Comfort’ you may want to consider a variety of tons including stringed instruments, drums, or even bagpipes. And then there are other sounds like rain, a soft breeze and bird calls that can feel particularly relaxing. And of course let’s not forget different genres including jazz, classical, pop and rock. The choices of music are endless and the ultimate answer rests with you.
Here’s to making the world a better place, one playlist at a time.
What music brings you comfort?