Dubai: It takes only nine minutes for you to be happy and 13 to overcome any lingering sadness.
And everyone can do it with music.
That’s the new research from the British Academy of Sound Therapy (BAST), which has quantified how long an individual needs to listen to certain kind of music for proven therapeutic benefits.
The study comes at a time when the world is straining under an onslaught of depressing news about the rapidly-spreading coronavirus and millions of people battle crippling restrictions on their daily lives due to quarantines and other measures in place to combat the pandemic.
While psychologists have long proven that music can have a positive impact on our health, the BAST study helps narrow down the types of music that can be prescribed to help with specific mood conditions for a specific duration. The study, titled “Music as Medicine”, tested 7,581 participants and found that 89 per cent believed music to be critical for their well-being.
But it goes into far more depth than that.
The best music for relaxation had a slow tempo, simple melody and no lyrics, with an optimum listening time of 13 minutes. And the result? Decreased muscle tension, disappearance of negative thoughts, feeling peaceful and contented and being able to sleep better. A separate test of subjects who used music for concentration found that in 91 per cent of the cases, 13 minutes was also enough to clear their mind, help them work better and make decisions more effectively.
Meanwhile, only nine minutes of music — but this time mostly songs with a driving rhythm, fast tempo and positive lyrics — is enough to make people feel uplifted and drive away sadness, causing listeners to feel a sense of relief, less overwhelmed, more stable and less likely to be triggered by an issue. In the same way that music helps people to manage anger, music was found to help people process and release sadness.
“Since time immemorial, people have been listening to music and deriving its many benefits linked to mental health and general well-being,” Dr Mohamed Yousaf, Specialist Psychiatrist at Aster Clinic, told Gulf News yesterday. “Some of these benefits include rapid enhancement in mood, getting rid of depression and anxiety and so on. But this study outlines in specific terms how long and what type of music people should listen to — and is therefore very beneficial, especially for patients who are in the early stages of serious mental health conditions. The best part is that with therapies such as this, many mental health conditions can be managed and treated without the need for any medication,” he said.
The BAST study is indeed encouraging for medical professionals looking for new ways to treat patients with mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression. It found that an impressive 89 per cent of the respondents had improved energy levels, 65 per cent laughed more and others felt more in control of their lives or able to “take on anything” after listening to specific music.
Lyz Cooper, the founder of BAST, has previously collaborated with musical trio Marconi Union to produce a track called Weightless — that she said “contains a sustaining rhythm that starts at 60 beats per minute and gradually slows to around 50, meaning the listener’s heartbeat will naturally slow down to match the track’s beats per minute”.
The study found that high-tempo music enhanced performance during exercise — when women training heard pop songs with over 170 beats per minute, scientists found they began to put in more effort, particularly during endurance activities such as running or cycling.
“It’s really hard to find somebody who doesn’t like music. Our experience in recommending music therapy even to patients who are on medication has been very positive. So in future we will continue to explore such alternatives and studies like this will help us refine that approach,” Dr Yousaf said.
The link between music and mental well-being is not a novelty.
“Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature and mind cannot do without,” said the great philosopher Confucius in his Book of Rites thousands of years ago.
“I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music,” said Albert Einstein — no less an accomplished violinist than a scientist.
And in 2016, Holly Chartrand, a music therapist at Harvard University-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, found that carefully calibrated music helped restore lost speech, aided pain relief and speeded up rehabilitation following chemotherapy sessions in cancer patients.
So now that the healing power of music can be measured, get your playlist ready for at least 13 minutes of sound therapy!