Meditation Music: What's Proven to Work?

Meditation Music: What's Proven to Work?

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Many individuals are seeking natural solutions to stress, which can be cheaper and side-effect-free unlike medication. Meditation can be done in the comfort of your home, and is thought to naturally reduce stress levels over time.

But is meditation actually proven to reduce stress? Does music make it more effective? What type of music is best for meditation?

In this article we’ll answer all of these questions and more as we review medical studies on meditation to determine if it's actually effective for reducing anxiety levels, share our thoughts on the best type of meditation music, feature a free meditation music playlist and explain why ASMR may be a better option.

Does Meditation Reduce Stress?

Meditation is often described as a natural and free way to improve mental health and relieve stress. Some of its proponents describe its effects as life-changing. Meditation is actually proven in several medical studies to have beneficial health outcomes.

A medical review published in the Neuroplasticity journal reports that meditation actually causes structural changes in the brain. People who meditate for many years have increased grey matter in various parts of the brain. Grey matter contains the highest density of neurons, so this research suggests that those who meditate may have improved cognition, emotion and self-awareness. 

A 2013 clinical trial found that meditation reduced anxiety levels in patients with generalized anxiety disorder, even moreso than a group receiving stress management education.

Mindfulness-based meditation was also shown to have beneficial effects on depression according to a medical review published in the American Family Physician journal, which found that the positive effect of meditation on mental state lasts for up to six months after the practice is stopped.

Based on the available research, we consider meditation to be likely effective for improving mental wellness and reducing stress. But is there a certain type of music that enhances its effects? We'll review that in the next section.

Does Music Enhance the Benefits of Meditation?

We recently published a sleep music review, and our investigation of medical literature uncovered that certain types of music were actually medically-proven to improve sleep quality.

Many health-conscious patients are curious if the same effects apply to meditation practice: can you achieve even greater cognitive and emotional benefits with specific types of music playing while you meditate?

The medical data doesn’t seem to indicate so. We can’t locate one single study suggesting that music enhances the benefits of meditation.

This makes sense when you think about it: most of the medical research on meditation involves a practice called “mindfulness meditation," which involves consciously releasing your thoughts as they come, and trying to remain present in the moment. 

Mindfulness meditation is usually practiced in a quiet and peaceful setting, since any audio or visual distractions can make it more challenging to remain focused and consciously present. Thus it would seem logical that music would actually make this type of meditation less effective, and lead to fewer long-term health and cognitive benefits associated with this type of meditation.

Where to Find Meditation Music

We’d recommend using YouTube to find meditation music if you’re intent on using it to meditate. There’s no point in paying for expensive courses or any music that comes with a fee, since we can't find evidence that any specific type of meditation music is the most effective.

Just finding music that's relaxing seems like the best bet.

We listened to a number of meditation music videos and found this one to be the most relaxing:

Is ASMR Good for Meditation?

ASMR videos, short for autonomous sensory meridian response, is a type of video that many people find relaxing and meditative. It involves sounds that are stimulating in a way that regular music is not, and which can trigger the nervous system into a state of relaxation.

clinical trial published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that ASMR caused "significantly increased relaxation" and reductions in insomnia and depression.

A YouTube video from a channel called "ASMR Bakery" has a video made to induce sleep that may be good for relaxation:

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Relaxing music has been shown to reduce anxiety and improve sleep, but we wouldn’t recommend using music during meditation. It hasn’t been studied to have any benefit over quiet mindfulness meditation, and likely makes the practice somewhat less effective.

That being said, any form of meditation is better than none at all, and if you find that you can’t meditate without peaceful music in the background, we fully support your decision to use it.

YouTube and Spotify have great, free meditation music playlists. We shared one of our favorites in this video.

ASMR may be a better option for those looking for relaxing music or soundtracks that can help them reach a meditative state. This type of video is actually clinically proven to reduce stress and relieve depression.