A collaboration between researchers and the musical group Marconi Union created Weightless, touted as the world’s most relaxing song.
Researchers teamed up with sound therapists from the British Academy of Sound Therapy in an effort to create the "world’s most relaxing song.” They composed a song that is scientifically proven to alleviate stress and anxiety.
A SCIENTIFIC MARVEL?
Mindlab International assembled a group of 40 participants, asking them to solve challenging puzzles, while monitoring their physiological responses as they listened to 10 different songs. Weightless outperformed all other tested songs, reducing stress and anxiety levels by an impressive 65 percent!
The song's tranquilizing effect extended to key physiological markers as well. Listeners experienced slower heart rate, lower blood pressure, and reduced breathing rates.
WHY IT WORKS
They carefully calibrated their arrangements to trigger deep relaxation. The song starts with a tempo of 60 beats per minute (BPM), mirroring the average resting heart rate of an adult. Over its duration, the speed gradually moves to 50 BPM, a deliberate choice to guide the listener’s heart rate into a slower, more mellow state.
Compositionally, the tune also employs a technique known as “entrainment”, which aligns the brainwaves of the listener with the song’s frequencies. This alignment, along with the tempo, encourages heart rate to sync with the music, further facilitating a state of calm. A tapestry of low frequencies, slow tempo, and soft, soothing sounds form the song’s base. Pianos, guitars, and chimes intermingle with chants to create a melody that is both ethereal and grounding. The researchers believe careful use of these concepts activate the brain’s reward system, releasing dopamine and inducing a sense of well-being.
The song incorporates an environmental aspect as well. Samples of natural sounds like trickling water and bird calls aim to trigger a biophilic response, an innate human attraction to living things and a sense of oneness with nature.
WEIGHING THE THERAPEUTIC EVIDENCE
The clinical potential of Weightless invites a comparison with other, more conventional methods of anxiety reduction, such as medication, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and physical therapies like massage or meditation.
A recent study at the University of Pennsylvania laid the groundwork for such a comparison by assessing the efficacy of Weightless against the widely prescribed sedative, midazolam. Researchers found both interventions equally effective in lowering anxiety in pre-operative patients, but Weightless had the distinct advantage of being devoid of any adverse effects or complications.
Another piece of research out of the University of Nevada, Reno, contrasted the sleep quality effects of the song with a placebo song. The results indicated a significant improvement in sleep metrics among those who listened to Weightless.
When we’re anxious, our executive functioning is compromised, and music can help to tame that very powerful circuitry in the brain. We can see that if we can provide the right sensory input, we can shift brain functioning from the stress response into the relaxation response.