Every situation seems to have a requisite playlist. We blast Beyoncé to get ready for a big night out, yell along to Alanis Morissette when angry over a bad break-up and relax to Enya during practically every massage we’ve ever had. But there is more to music than merely being the soundtrack to the movie of our lives. In fact, according to Dr. Frank Lipman (whose celebrity clients include Gwyneth Paltrow, Donna Karan, Maggie and Jake Gyllenhaal and more!), music can actually affect our moods (rather than merely reflecting them) – meaning that it’s not only the case that we songs to play that coincide with our current moods but also we’re actually affected by the songs playing too.

According to Dr. Lipman, who has been using music and sound in his practice for more than 20 years, sound bypasses the rational mind and is able to touch the emotional body at a core level. (And, heck, if Gwyneth Paltrow believes him, we do too!) As he explains, there has been quite a bit of research documenting the effects of music on hormone secretions, emotions and health in general. In fact, music slows down and equalizes brain waves, affects body temperature, respiration, heart rate and blood pressure, reduces muscle tension, improves body coordination, increases endorphin levels, regulates stress hormones, boosts the immune system, stimulates digestion, strengthens memory, enhances sexuality, generates a sense of well-being and even changes our perception of time and space! In fact, humans have been using sound to access deeper states of consciousness, expanded awareness and heal the body for thousands of years.

Need a new workout playlist? Download this one!

The key: the rhythm. As Dr. Lipman explains, various types of beats can help to create different mental and emotional states to effect and change many different mood states and entrain your body’s internal rhythms in a positive and healthful way. Depending on the music selected, music can be relaxing, energizing, uplifting, cleansing or creative. That being said, the rhythm isn’t the only necessary factor. You actually have to like the music too. (Sadly, no matter how relaxing Enya may seem to your masseuse, if you hate her sound it just won’t work).

So, how does this work? Well, our bodies like to “sync” with pulses greater than our own such that our internal rhythms will speed up or slow down to match a stronger external rhythm. Not convinced? Dr. Lipman suggests you try counting your heart rate when you’re listening to loud rock music and then counting it again when sitting quietly listening to peaceful music. (It’s why lullabies work on crying babies!)

Feeling down? Try these how to be happy tips too! 

So, here’s how to relax with music…

Pick a slow rhythm mix you already own (reggae is always a good starting point) or download some of the songs on Dr. Lipman’s African Chill Mix (below).

Get comfortable and close your eyes. (Listening becomes more acute when you don’t have visual stimuli.)

Try to hear with your whole body to not only listen to the full spectrum of sounds, but also to feel the vibrations of the sounds in your body.

The Be Well by Dr Frank Lipman African Chill Mix

Dee Moo Woor, Orchestra Baobab

Jammu Africa, Ismael Lo

Kothbiro, Ayub Ogada

Tindo Quando, Baaba Maal

Nafaken, Gi-Gi

Mbeugel, Daby Balde

M’Beddemi, Cheikh Lo

Djam Leelii, Baaba Maal & Mansour Seck

This Dream, Youssou N’Dour

Politic Amagni, Amadou & Mariam

Ghir Enta, Souad Massi

Sodade, Cesaria Evora

Malaika, Angelique Kidjo

Holding tension in your body? Give yourself a FREE massage with these tips!