Listening to music each day can help relieve anxiety and improve overall health according to a recent dissertation completed by Marie Helsing. For the doctoral thesis, participants of a study were divided into two groups; one listened to music every day while the second group spent time relaxing each day without music. The results showed a decrease in cortisol, the stress hormone, and better overall health in the group that listened to music. These participants had “more frequent and more intense positive emotions than the group who did not listen to music.”  The type of music did not seem to matter as much as whether or not the participant liked the music. The more the participant liked the music, the better the results.
This study included a small group of people but most people have experienced these results at some time. During stressful moments, we can feel our bodies relax, at least a little, when listening to a song we love. At the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, many patients receive music therapy as part of their overall treatment. The music not only helps them deal with the physical symptoms of cancer but helps to reduce their anxiety.
Music therapy uses a trained and licensed professional to create individualized programs, which can include listening to music, playing or singing music or writing music, to improve physical, psychological, cognitive and social functioning. After an initial evaluation, a music therapist works to create a program that addresses individual needs. According to the Music Therapy Association, some of the benefits of music therapy are:
- Positive changes in mood
- Improve self-awareness
- Enhance communication skills
- Help with social interactions
- Develop coping and relaxation skills
- Improve conflict resolution skills
Creating Your Own Music Program
According to the University of Michigan, you don’t need to be a music therapist or even musically inclined to receive the benefits of music. Some of the suggestions for using music are:
Listen to music you find enjoyable. Depending on your mood, the music you listen to may change. You may sometimes want soothing music to help you relax and at other times want more upbeat music to help you improve your outlook on life.
Use your IPod or tablet computer so you can listen to music throughout the day. You may be waiting for an appointment, stuck in traffic or on your lunch hour at work. Being able to put on headphones, block out the stress around you and listen to music can help relax you.
Find local live music performances. Check your local paper or look online for live music performances based on the music you most enjoy.
Write a song. Expressing your emotion through music or through lyrics may be easier than having to speak how you are feeling. Remember, your lyrics or music are for you. You don’t need to worry about whether it is “good enough.”
Find the lyrics to one of your favorite songs. Read through the lyrics and analyze why you like the song and why the words are meaningful to you.
While you can receive benefits of music on your own, some people may prefer to work directly with a music therapist. The American Music Therapy Association does have a directory if you are looking to work with someone.
 “Music Listening Improves Health,” 2012, Feb 15, Daniel Broden, Annica Sjolander, University of Gothenburg
“Music Therapy and Mental Health,” Date Unknown, Staff Writer, American Music Therapy Association, Inc.
“Music Therapy Relieves Health Anxiety,” 2008, Dec 16, Rick Nauert, Ph.D., PsychCentral.com
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.