Listening to Music Does WHAT?

Listening to your favorite music can not only reduce levels of stress and anxiety, but also act as a painkiller. Music can help us transcend pain.

That is the startling conclusion of psychologists at Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland who enlisted brave volunteers to plunge their hands in icy cold water and keep them there to induce pain. While their hands were being chilled, the participants were given a choice of listening to music, doing mental arithmetic, or watching a video of Scottish comedian Billy Connolly. Without exception, those who listened to the music were able to tolerate the frigid water the longest--sometimes up to five times longer, report the BBC News and The Daily Mail.

"We played music in the background and found that you keep your hand in longer when you listen to it," researcher Dr. Laura Mitchell told the BBC. "It reduces pain and increases your feelings of control." Why? The researchers theorize that music not only provides a distraction from the pain, but also engages us emotionally unlike other stimulants.

What kind of music works best? Each participant listened to his or her favorite tunes, which included quite a musical range from punk to classical and rock 'n' roll to folk. There was a surprise. The one tune that seemed to assuage the pain the best was The Prodigy's 1996 rock hit "Firestarter." Mitchell told the BBC this was "not music you would immediately think of as relaxing, but the person who chose it put up with the pain five times as long while listening to it."

In addition, the research team studied people who were experiencing real pain: patients recovering from minor surgery in hospitals. "We found that listening to your favorite music reduced anxiety levels," Dr. Raymond MacDonald told the BBC. The next step: Figure out how music could be used in hospitals to help alleviate pain and anxiety.

This new study confirms a similar conclusion reached by researchers at Pennsylvania State University in Altoona, who determined that listening to music you like will give your soul a quick jolt of happiness. When we hear music we enjoy, bad moods are banished and good moods are enhanced.

What music does:
It makes listeners more optimistic, joyful, friendly, relaxed, and calm, and helps vanish feelings of pessimism and sadness.

What music doesn't do: It won't ease feelings of fear, sadness, hate, or aggression, and it does nothing to increase feelings of love.

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