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Music as a Drug = 10 mg of valium

“Research shows that listening to 30 minutes of soothing music may produce a calming effect equivalent to taking 10 mg of Valium,” WebMD reports. CBS News, Jul 21, 2010

Time after time I have witnessed people saturated in a moment of music that changes them—from crusty to relaxed, from lonely to secure, from uncomfortable to soothed. But how aware are you of how music affects your mood? Have you ever really thought about why you turn on the radio or listen to a particular CD? For many of us, putting on music is a reflex. We know we like music, but when we’re doing something absent-mindedly, we don’t really take time to analyze why we like a particular song or piece of music. We may turn the station or skip a track on the album because we don’t like it, but that may be as far as we ever get in using music to help us control or change our emotions.

Through the course of my work with many different types of people who are exhibiting the gamut of emotions, I have come to identify five areas in which music regularly helps a person change their emotional state to something that is better for them in that moment. Music can:

  • focus or distract
  • connect and celebrate
  • motivate or relax
  • evoke memories and enhance new experiences
  • help us tap into our feelings or be used strictly for entertainment

The key is to use music with intention, with a purpose. In order to do that, it is important to step back and identify where you are in a given moment emotionally, and if it’s not the right state, then you need to decide where you want to be. When you’ve identified the end point, then you can best use music to help you.

*** Please note that when using music in a clinical or health care setting it is best to consult

 Music has been used for hundreds of years to treat illnesses and restore harmony between mind and body. But recently, scientific studies have attempted to measure the potential benefits of music. They have found:

  • Music’s form and structure can bring order and security to disabled and distressed children. It encourages coordination and communication, so improves their quality of life.
  • Listening to music on headphones reduces stress and anxiety in hospital patients before and after surgery.
  • Music can help reduce both the sensation and distress of both chronic pain and postoperative pain.
  • Listening to music can relieve depression and increase self-esteem ratings in elderly people.
  • Making music can reduce burnout and improve mood among nursing students.
  • Music therapy significantly reduces emotional distress and boosts quality of life among adults

Collingwood, J. (2007). The Power of Music To Reduce Stress. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 4, 2013, from


Jennifer Buchanan, Music TherapistJennifer Buchanan, BMT, MTA is the happy owner of JB Music Therapy and Author of TUNE IN. Our “Music Speaks” Blog aims to inspire you to use music with greater intention and knowledge. Call us to help or and browse our resources here.