Research finds music is the one thing that bring everyone together during a pandemic

So many of us are feeling lonely and stressed out. While those feelings are certainly understandable given the current state of the world, that doesn’t make them any easier.

There isn’t going to be a magical cure-all for the negativity we’re all feeling these days, but Ohio State University professor of communication Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick has a suggestion on how to alleviate both stress and loneliness simultaneously. Take comfort in the simple pleasure of music.

Music may sound like an overly simple recommendation at first, but it has already proven to be incredibly helpful during this pandemic. Consider the countless people across the world who have taken to their balconies to play music for their neighbors. 

Music is a universally relatable form of artistic expression that can help each one of us cope with the situation we’re finding ourselves in. It reminds us of the human experience, and that in and of itself connects us with the people in our lives that we may not be able to visit physically, but make up a great portion of our thoughts right now.

Perhaps you’ve recently discovered a song that has helped you feel better or stay calm over the past few weeks. Sharing that song with a loved one or friend is a great way to stay in touch remotely. So many people feel like they’re going through this pandemic alone. A gesture as simple as sending a link to a song on YouTube could make all the difference in terms of reminding someone they’re not all by themselves.

“Music is a very effective, easy and cheap way of distracting yourself,” Professor Knobloch-Westerwick explains in an OSU editorial. “I think oftentimes we think of other people when we listen to music – it might remind us of other people and just help us feel connected. And that is a buffer against stress – human connectedness helps you to feel less stress.”

Once we’ve shared a piece of music with someone, that song is intrinsically linked with that individual or experience forever. Another way music can help is to take a walk down memory lane and dust out some of the old records you enjoyed years ago. Hearing those songs can be of enormous comfort during these stressful times, effectively transporting you to happier moments.

Music isn’t just helpful on an emotional level either. Professor Knobloch-Westerwick also cites research that found music can help relieve stress on a physiological level as well. 

“Listening to music positively affects cortisol levels in the saliva, and it can lower a person’s heart rate,” she explains.

The music doesn’t necessarily have to be upbeat or happy go lucky. Lindsay Warrenburg recently obtained a Ph.D. from OSU and primarily studied how music can influence emotion. She recommends returning to the music you listened to as a teenager or young adult. So, if you loved metal or hardcore music growing up, some Hatebreed may be just what the doctor ordered during this quarantine period. 

From Eminem to Beethoven, it doesn’t matter what type of music it is, as long as it helps you feel better.

“There’s a critical period of music listening called the reminiscence, which is from around age 12 to around age 22 – it’s when most of our musical tastes are formed,” Warrenburg describes. “I would suggest going back to music that reminds people of that time period.”

The coronavirus has robbed us of many elements that we all once took for granted, but music isn’t one of them. The virus may be keeping up apart temporarily, but music serves as a fantastic reminder that the human spirit can’t be extinguished quite so easily.

“Music is a great way of reminding us that we are all in this together,” Professor Knobloch-Westerwick concludes. “What everybody does counts. So, we all have to really hang in there and support each other. We will see through this. Everything will be better eventually.”