Columnist Ian Welfley recommends students try listening to classical music when they're stressed.

It’s no secret that college students have it rough. Throughout four treacherous years on campus, students are forced to endure a whirlwind of exams, club meetings, social pressures, sleep deprivation, panic attacks and the tear-filled days of class selection where no one is left unscathed. Research has shown that one in five college students have anxiety or depression, and while medication and therapy can be an effective outlet, there’s a much simpler solution at every student’s fingertips: queuing up some Beethoven or Mozart.

When browsing a student’s playlist in the modern-day, one might stumble across some Drake, Childish Gambino or even Led Zeppelin for those who still have a classic rock appetite. Gone are the days when Chopin or Debussy’s names were commonly found, or even recognized for that matter. A recent Poeticssurvey demonstrated that 15% of educated young people dislike classical music. While that may not seem like much, this contrasts the 8% from 1993, suggesting that classical music is gradually losing favor with “high status” young adults.

These same young adults who say they dislike classical music are probably being bombarded by deadlines and a limited time to sleep. And what’s most likely unknown to them is that the remedy they’re searching for is the very thing they claim to resent. Through numerous studies, classical music has been shown to enhance creativity in the brain. This was showcased through a University of California study where students who listened to classical music prior to taking the SATs got far higher scores than students who hadn’t. In addition to this, a separate French experiment observed students who listened to a lecture as classical music played in the background and noticed they had superior test scores when compared to other students.

Classical music also possesses the ability to alleviate an individual’s depression. Various studies have shown that exposure to classical music causes people to feel more relaxed, which can be attributed to how classical music appears to lower a listener’s blood pressure by a significant margin. Scientists then conducted the same study with ABBA music and saw a notable contrast in its levels of effectiveness. The lowered blood pressure that classical music emits is what assists the heart in recovering from stress, which was proven even further by a recent experiment aimed to diminish levels of anxiety in pregnant women. The results showed that anxiety substantially decreased in pregnant women exposed to classical music, while no such result was seen in the control group partaking in daily relaxation instead.

Another issue that plagues the modern student is trying to fall asleep. The unpleasant routine of hopelessly tossing and turning in hopes of getting enough sleep before a morning class is a hardship that every undergraduate might be privy to. Once again, this is another circumstance where classical music can lend a helping hand. It’s been shown that adults who listen to 45 minutes of classical music before bed fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer without intermittently waking up in the evening.

While college life certainly has its highs, it’s hard to deny that a great deal of it can be rather tumultuous depending on how one goes about it. Stress and anxiety can be a common and completely understandable aspect of venturing through college, yet it’s always good for an individual to have an aid at hand. And if that aid is in the harmonious piano of “Clair De Lune,” a student might be surprised at how much their life can improve for the better.

Ian Welfley is a junior media arts & design/communications double major.  Contact Ian at welfleim@dukes.jmu.edu.