We know listening to music can be relaxing and can even lower blood pressure, but little attention has been focused on the correlation between different types of music and their physiologic effects.
Now German researchers have reported that listening to Mozart and Strauss (Johann Jr.) provides a greater benefit for blood pressure, heart rate and stress than resting quietly or listening to pop songs performed by the group ABBA.
The investigators from Ruhr University Bochum recruited 120 volunteers and divided them into four groups that each completed one test session. One group of 20 participants spent 25 minutes listening to Mozart’s Symphony No 40 in G minor; a second group of 20 listened to Strauss’ Unforgettable Melodies and a third listened to ABBA songs.
The other 60 volunteers spent 25 minutes lying on their backs in silence. Before and after these sessions the investigators checked all the participants’ blood pressure, heart rate and concentrations of the stress hormone cortisol. Results showed that those who listened to music by Mozart and Strauss had notably lower blood pressure and heart rate afterwards, while no such effect was seen among those who listened to ABBA.
However, cortisol concentrations were down among all those who listened to music. Blood pressure was also reduced among those who spent 25 minutes lying in silence but not as much as it was among those who listened to Mozart or Strauss.
These findings are interesting because they demonstrate an objective variation in response to different types of music and silence on stress, blood pressure and heart rate. It’s striking that ABBA’s songs, which are lively compared to the classical music, led to a drop in cortisol among the study participants, if not a reduction in blood pressure and heart rate.
Although this particular study chose Mozart, Strauss, and ABBA, the important thing is to listen to whatever kind of music relaxes you personally and helps neutralize stress and anxiety, but keep in mind that Mozart or Strauss might be most suitable if you’re aiming to reduce your blood pressure or heart rate.
Artistic Impulses To Beat Stress
Listening to music isn’t the only artistic pursuit that lends itself to stress reduction. Investigators at Drexel University have found that indulging your inner artist can also help promote a relaxed state of body and mind. The research team invited 39 adults ages 18 to 59 to take part in 45 minutes of drawing, sculpting or making collages. Just under half of the volunteers had some artistic experience.
Before and after the art-making session the researchers checked levels of the stress hormone cortisol in participants’ saliva samples. They provided paper, markers, modeling clay and collage materials and instructed the volunteers to feel free to create any type of art they desired.
Results showed that cortisol levels declined among 75 percent of the participants. The researchers reported that while there was some variation in how much the stress hormone levels fell, there was no correlation between past art experience and lower cortisol levels.
They also noted that, contrary to their expectations, no correlation emerged between cortisol levels and less structured mediums (using clay or drawing with markers) or between cortisol response and more structured ones (collaging).
Sadly these days we take a level of stress for granted, but what women often fail to recognise is the impact stress will have on hormonal symptoms. Bioidentical hormones help women from puberty to post menopause and there is no stage of life in which stress does not play a part.
Whether dealing with hot flushes or post menopause anxiety don’t underestimate the effect of stress. Natural progesterone helps many women with hormonal symptoms as it can calm mood and relieve anxiety so check your stress levels and take some simple steps to relieve it.
A diet high in stimulants such as sugar and coffee won’t help, but some gentle regular exercise and practices such as yoga and meditation have all proved useful. If you are suffering from hormone imbalance then that too will contribute to stress so check your symptoms for signs of this too.