Music is a universal language—it carries emotion through sound waves. Classic tracks make you nostalgic for another time, high-paced beats inspire you to do a quick lap around the block, and ambient, relaxing music may help you fall asleep. There’s science to the sound. Ask the Scientists covers the physical response our bodies have to music, revealing the link between music and stress relief.
So, it’s not just in your head. Blasting your exercise playlist actually tricks your body into working out by increasing your heart rate, alertness, and energy levels. It’s the perfect caffeine-free pre-workout. At the other end of the spectrum, relaxing music helps your brain focus on the task at hand and reduces stress levels.
Most people have a workout playlist, but fewer have curated a list of calming music. Read on to learn why you should have a “stress less” playlist for those times when you need to chill out. Plus, get tips on how to build a relaxing playlist all your own.
Benefits of Relaxing Music
Listening to music at a steady 60 BPM (beats per minute) induces alpha brainwaves ideal for studying, relaxation, and sleep. Slower music sends signals to your body to lower your blood pressure and heart rate and encourage deep breathing. It’s the perfect tool to prime your body and mind for meditation, which has its own physiological benefits. It may also help you fall asleep as part of your healthy bedtime routine.
When you feel overwhelmed, calming music can help you focus on what needs to be done. Tackling your to-do list is its own source of relief, a win-win for balancing wellness and productivity.
Build Your Own “Stress Less” Playlist
Starting with your library, take a trip down musical memory lane and comb through your collection of mellow tracks and albums. It’s tedious to scroll lists or flip through physical discs, but you’ll rediscover old favorites. There may even be acoustic versions of some of your favorite songs, so get to googling.
Acoustic covers can be great for de-stressing.
If song sorting sounds like too much work, or if you’re in need of good vibes right now, no worries. Spotify, YouTube Music, and other streaming services are full of jazzy, ambient, study-centric playlists. For a completely distraction-free focus session, try pink noise. The deep, natural sounds of pink noise are great for sleep and productivity.
There’s relaxing music across all sorts of genres. Here are a few places to start when searching:
Shoegaze (Yes, this is a real genre—look it up!)
Once you’ve finished digging through your discography, it’s time to find the sweet spot of 60–80 beats per minute. You can use a free service, such as SongBPM.com, to determine the tempo of the track. But thanks to the physiological benefits of relaxing music, you’ll know a soothing sound when you hear it. Even a higher tempo can be calming to some listeners.
Streaming services are full of jazzy, ambient, study-centric playlists.
Share Good Vibes with Friends
Music is best savored socially, where you can experience the sonic waves and validate each other’s fantastic taste in music. Create a collaborative stress-less playlist and host a chill listening session. You’ll also enjoy other benefits from maintaining a social life, like lowered cortisol levels and elevated mental health.
Ambient albums, with slower BPMs and gentle tones, make for perfectly calming music.
Discover Other Ways to Stress Less
There are as many ways to destress as there are stressors. Find your Zen with these tips, courtesy of Ask the Scientists:
Mindfulness through meditation provides fast relief.
Stepping outside for even 20 minutes can trigger beneficial physiological reactions.
Immersing yourself in any hobby helps to center the mind.
There’s relaxing music across all sorts of genres.
Tune In to Tune Out
You likely already have a fast-paced playlist for whenever you need an extra oomph. Now, you’ve got a stress less playlist full of calming music to help you achieve the opposite. Next time you’re feeling anxious, turn up an ambient track—and turn down the stress.