“Playing music with others or enjoying live music stimulates the cuddle hormone oxytocin.”


Everybody knows what stress is, but most of us find it difficult to prevent stress or lower down our stress levels. Stress is a general activation reaction to a stimulus that could mean both a challenge (in a positive way) and in a threat (in a negative sense). Positive stress is a short term arousal which happens moments before we need to do something important for example during sports activities. Negative stress is an arousal that we often experience for a long time and find ourselves unable to control to decrease it. For example when you are feeling restless or scared. To numb down the negative stress symptoms, doctors prescribe medication like antidepressants and sedatives. A frequent use for a long period could cause an addiction to these medicines. In fact, many patients find themselves in a vicious circle: it’s stressful to stop with these meds and furthermore taking these meds can cause more harm to your body and mind. Another side effect of using medications to avoid negative stress is that we are unable to tea teach ourselves how to deal with stress related symptoms. In a nutshell: we need to understand how stress works and what the difference is between positive and negative stress. Now an interesting question is how can we use music to lower down negative stress levels? 

Martina de Witte is lecturer in music therapy and a PhD researcher who conducted a quantitative social research:“Effect of Music interventions on Stress Reduction in Medical and Mental Heath Care Settings”. She researched the cohesion between music and stress focussing on the physiological and psychological effects. Physiological effects of stress are increased heart rate or blood pressure, psychological effects of stress are restlessness, nervousness, anxiety,  subjective worry and chronic fatigue. She found that music can help to reduce stress. Music is often associated with pleasant and positive feelings. When we are in love some of us tend to listen to romantic music, because it enhances our positive emotions. And while we listen to music we increase the neurotransmitter dopamine (the hormone that boosts our happiness levels). Music also affects our brain structures that are involved in emotional processes. Playing music with others or enjoying live music stimulates the cuddle hormone oxytocin. Basically, music is a cost-effective and non-addictive way to reduce stress levels (lowering heart rate, blood pressure and the hormone cortisol).


Music intervention 

Music intervention (music medicine) is a medical treatment with purposeful musical activities in which music listening, music making or singing is central. During music intervention a patient listens to pre-recorded music offered by medical or healthcare professionals. Most of the pre-recorded music is instrumental classical music without major dynamics in the composition. There is high-level evidence that music interventions can be effective for stress reduction; even one session can be effective! Music interventions are very easy, safe and inexpensive to integrate into our daily lives and in medical settings.

Prescribe yourself instrumental music 

Facts about the effects of music to reduce stress levels are important to state, but it’s much better to motivate yourself to reduce your daily stress levels. You can start with listening to instrumental music three times a day for twenty minutes. While waking up, during a lunch break and before you go to bed. This is merely a suggestion from my end, but try out a timetable that is convenient for you. Pre-select the music that you like to listen to during these twenty minute sessions. And while listening to this music avoid doing any stress-causing chores. Focus on your breathing, relax and listen. You can keep notes of these sessions and write down the emotions that you experience or thoughts that cross your mind. Use these ‘mind notes’ to analyse your own feelings and thought process, you might find the key to some unanswered questions.

This was my second MInZ lecture at ErasmusMC hospital. Read my other two blogs related to music and healthcare:

My next blog will be about music in the operation theatre. 


My complimentary suggestions: 

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