Music has the wonderful and unique ability to enhance and change our emotional states, with each of us having our own individual connections to different songs and genres. So, where I might get respite from anger with heavy metal, you might not and instead get that relief from listening to something by N.W.A..
The Power Of Music
Listening to music is one of our most popular leisure activities, making it an important companion to most people’s daily lives (Schäfer, Sedlmeier, Städtler, and Huron, 2013). According to Science Focus, music has the rare ability to change the way we perceive the world, with experiments showing it can change how we read the emotions displayed on people’s faces. Thus, if you’re listening to a song that makes you feel happy you’re more likely to see neutral faces as happy and if you’re listening to something that makes you feel sad then you’re more likely to see that same neutral face as being sad.
Music can also function as a soothing mechanism because playing songs that help you think of happier times can improve your mood (12 Keys Rehab). That’s because music is able to rekindle old memories without intending to do so, which can then help us to tap into the emotions we experienced at the time those memories took place (Science Focus). However, just as they can bring positive memories to the surface again, they can also trigger negative memories in some people as well.
Our mood and music are closely linked, whereby listening to a sad song can make us feel sad and listening to a happy song can help us to feel happier (University of Groningen, 2011). The reason this can happen is that the processing of music occurs within the limbic system, which is often referred to as the centre of feedings, emotions, and sensations (Murrock and Higgins, 2009). The ability of music to affect your mood, changing and enhancing it, is one of the reasons why I have an eclectic taste when it comes to genres.
According to Making Music Magazine, different genres can offer different types of healing. My mix of mood-altering music can come from a wide range of genres, except for house, I find house mind-numbingly boring.
This is supported by Psychology Today, whereby music listeners mirror their reactions and emotions to that of which the song is expressing, so a sad song can cause us to feel sadness. One of the reasons some people listen to sad music when they’re feeling sad, rather than listening to happy music to try and change their mood to a happier one, is because sometimes it’s better to elicit that sad feeling to recover from it. Furthermore, even sad songs can bring us a sense of pleasure and comfort Eerola and Peltola (2016).
The power of music to affect our mood doesn’t just stop there. According to the theory of music, mood and movement, or MMM for short, music can create a psychological response that can alter our moods and lead to improved health outcomes (Murrock and Higgins, 2009). Therefore, it’s not just affecting our moods, music can also help with our health.
In the scientific opinion of Schäfer, Sedlmeier, Städtler, and Huron (2013), normally, human behaviours have a recognisable and pragmatic purpose that can be traced back to basic human needs such as survival and procreation. However, music belongs to our set of odd behaviours because few behaviours command so much of our energy, time, and money while adding nothing to our basic human needs. In short, if music didn’t exist, we could still meet our basic human needs of surviving and procreating. It just wouldn’t be as much fun.
Can you imagine living in a world where the beat or rhythm of our favourite songs didn’t trigger automated bodily responses of bopping your head or tapping your feet? The effects of music on our minds aren’t surprising when you know that musical patterns affect the auditory brainstem and the auditory cortex, which affects our neural reward system in relation to our memory and emotions (Science Focus).
This is supported by Psychology Today who state that enjoyment of music seems to involve the same pleasure centre in the brain as other pleasure activities, such as food, sex, and drugs. Because music affects the pleasure centre of our brains, it can make for an interesting form of therapy (Making Music Magazine). As such, music therapy can be seen in a lot of mental health settings.
However, music isn’t always used for good, unfortunately. The playlists you hear while shopping is selected to affect your shopping behaviour (Psychology Today). That’s right, your favourite stores might be creating playlists to manipulate you (BBC News). Allan (2008) found that the choice of playlists played by brands is picked to affect the customer’s view of the store and their employees by creating the right kind of shopping environment. Basically, if you’re a store aiming at a youth market, you’ll target customers with playlists that reflect the youth generation, for stores that want to appeal to an elderly generation, they may choose golden oldies, which at the moment would be stuff from the 60s and 70s.
The Benefits Of Listening To Music
Listening to sad songs can help the listener to disengage from distressing situations, such as a breakup, by getting lost in the beauty of the music or allowing the lyrics to give voice to feelings or experiences they’re struggling to express (Psychology Today). This is supported by Murrock and Higgins (2009), who said music can be used as a way to distract us from an unwanted and unpleasant stimulus, by helping people to use music as a stimulus substitute, thus allowing people to pay minimal attention to the unwanted stimulus. It has also been claimed that this can help people to manage the feeling of physical pain.
Support for the power to distract comes from Schaal, Brückner, Wolf, Ruckhäberle, Fehm, and Hepp (2021), who found studies that showed that around the time of surgery, music interventions can help reduce a patient’s anxieties. They themselves found that there were no significant effects of music on subject anxiety or salivary cortisol (a biomarker for stress), but they did find a positive influence on physiological anxiety levels. Therefore, they support the idea of using music interventions as a low-cost addition to reducing patients’ heart rate and blood pressure.
It’s studies like these that likely led to me being able to select songs to listen to while having my MRI, as part of the investigation into if I have PoTS. It’s common for people to feel claustrophobic while having an MRI because the MRI is both deafeningly loud and can make you feel trapped in an enclosed space. Even the earplugs aren’t that effective at blocking out the loud sounds. Thus, allowing someone to select their favourite tunes to listen to while undergoing an MRI will likely help reduce anxiety and help avoid feelings of claustrophobia.
Another example of the positive power of sad music and our memories comes from a survey study by Eerola and Peltola (2016). This study was performed on three samples of participants (convenience sample of 1577, representative sample of 445, and quota sample 414) with the aim of exploring the reactions to memorable experiences of sad music. The study found that listening to such tracks caused intense and pleasurable experiences for the participants, as well as triggering physiological effects such as moist eyes, tears, and chills, which coincided with positive mood changes in approximately a third of the participants. It seems counterintuitive, but sad music isn’t always depressing and crying doesn’t always mean something bad.
Schäfer, Sedlmeier, Städtler, and Huron (2013) claim that people listen to music to achieve social relatedness, self-awareness, and mood regulation and emotional arousal. As social creatures, humans want to feel connected to other people, which music can help facilitate, even when you’re physically alone. A song can speak to you, connect with you, and make you feel like you’re not the only one, even while you might be alone in your room and feeling lonely.
The reason I got into alternative music (nu-metal, heavy metal, etc.) was because the songs and the lyrics connected to my traumatised heart. Before I found alternative music, I was utterly lost due to the damage to my mind caused by my childhood, but finding this music changed my life forever. Just having that music to listen to was enough to help me get through life and eventually stabilised my identity crisis.
Furthermore, music can evoke emotions at the individual, the interpersonal, and the intergroup level (Psychology Today). Thus, music has the power to bring people together from different groups, helping them to interact with each other through the common love of a music genre, an artist/band, or a song they love.
As previously stated, music is a good tool for altering our mood., but it can also be used to help us escape, stop us from feeling bored, help us focus, and help us achieve our goals (Psychology Today). I’m sure we all have playlists designed for the different activities we do, such as having a workout playlist. I know I do. My workout playlist, not that I use it much at the moment, is filled with my heavier and energy pumping tunes to help me exercise more effectively. I also use certain songs to help me get motivated when I lack the will to do anything.
The reason why music is good for a workout is that it provides an auditory cue that can trigger a desire to move that can lead to the initiation and maintenance of physical activity in the majority of adult populations (Murrock and Higgins, 2009), as well as children. Gyms tap into this ability of music helping us to get moving by playing certain types of tracks in the gym and why you have a workout playlist.
One of the more obvious benefits of music is its ability not only alter our moods but also to help us relax (Open Minds). There is nothing like relaxing to music that’s just not the same as sitting in silence, for me at least. Even with my taste of heavy music, you can still kick back and relax to it if you want. Although you can also mix that up with some heavy metal yoga if you wish, I know I do.
According to Verywell Mind, listening to music can also help you with studying for your exams, apparently, although I’m sceptical about this. I tried studying for my exams listening to my favourite songs but found that distracting as I end up singing along instead. I also tried using music without lyrics to stop me from singing along, and although it wasn’t distracting this time, I couldn’t tell you if it had actually helped or not. However, my personal experience is anecdotal, so it might actually work for others, especially as I have dyslexia.
Listening to music or making it can help with your creativity, according to Reach Out, which would be pretty cool, if true. I know I write most of my articles while listening to and singing along to my favourite tunes. I can’t imagine doing anything like that without music.
As always, leave your feedback in the comments section below. Also, feel free to share your experiences with music in the comments section below as well. Don’t forget to bookmark my site and if you want to stay up-to-date with my blog, then sign up for my newsletter below. Alternatively, get push notifications for new articles by clicking the red bell icon in the bottom right corner.
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Unwanted Life readers.
Allan, D. (2008). Sound retailing: a review of experimental evidence on the effects of music on shopping behavior. In T. M. Lowrey (Ed.), Brick & mortar shopping in the twenty-first century (pp. 33-52). New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/254648738_Sound_Retailing_a_Review_of_Experimental_Evidence_on_the_Effects_of_Music_on_Shopping_Behavior.
Eerola, T., & Peltola, H. R. (2016). Memorable Experiences with Sad Music—Reasons, Reactions and Mechanisms of Three Types of Experiences. PLOS ONE, 11(6). Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0157444 and https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0157444.
Murrock, C. J., & Higgins, P. A. (2009). The theory of music, mood and movement to improve health outcomes. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 65(10), 2249–2257. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2648.2009.05108.x and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3573365.
Schäfer, T., Sedlmeier, P., Städtler, C., & Huron, D. (2013). The psychological functions of music listening. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 511. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00511.
Schaal, N. K., Brückner, J., Wolf, O. T., Ruckhäberle, E., Fehm, T., & Hepp, P. (2021). The effects of a music intervention during port catheter placement on anxiety and stress. Scientific Reports, 11(1), 1-10. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-85139-z and https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-85139-z.
University of Groningen. (2011). Music changes perception, research shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110427101606.htm.
99 thoughts on “Music And The Amazing Mental Health Benefits Of Songs”
Such an interesting post. I love the power of music to take me back to places and spark memories
Music is magical
Music is very influential and is the cure to a bad day! It sets the tone for all occasions! I enjoyed this blog
Indeed it does
Music has always been an important part of my life! You’ve mentioned some very interesting facts, thank you for writing this. I have many playlists for different kind of mood ranging from shower to motivational songs x
A specific shower playlist? How interesting
While I don’t suffer with any kind of mental health issues I can definitely vouch for the importance and strength of music. We have music on constantly in my house, it’s a constant reflection of our moods. I love music, it can transport me and change my mood in an instant
Thanks for sharing
Music definitely helps my mental health. I have dedicated playlists depending on which mood I’m in.
Music is great like that
Lovely post! I’m always a music lover. Music makes me calm. Music also makes me energetic. I love working out and doing my artworks with music. Thank you for sharing this good post.
Thanks for sharing your experience
Really interesting read.
I do enjoy silence, but it does play havoc with your thoughts. I do find music does relax and in some ways reset your cognitive thinking.
Thanks for sharing
The power of music. A appreciative blog post once again written with passion and understanding.
Great tips, I honestly when I feel stressed or down, I tend to listen to happy music which help me to be lifted and get back to normal
Thanks for sharing
I love music! I often listen to something upbeat when I’m doing chores or cooking because it helps me focus. I switch to songs without lyrics when I’m writing, like video game soundtracks.
Playing an instrument can also be good for stress.
Video game soundtracks is unusual, are we talking class videogames from like the 80s or 90s or more modern stuff?
What an excellent read! I am a huge fan of music and a big believer in its ability to heal and unite, as well as inspire. I have made some amazing friends at concerts, music conventions, and through making music.
I read a while ago that, as you age, if you make a playlist of songs you listened to when you were 18, it keeps your mind and outlook young. I have no idea if there’s any psychology behind it, but I thought I might as well give it a try. It’s a great playlist to listen to and it brings back great memories.
That wouldn’t surprise me, given how significant those years can be on our development
Great post! I love the amount of research you did for this. I agree and have been reading for some time that music is a great way to improve your mood, relax, etc. Music has so many positive benefits. I’m glad you pointed all of these out in such a well-written post!
Thank you ?
Sad music most of the time makes me feel better.
When I used to study, I found classical music helped me with my concentration.
Also, the 80s and 90s music makes me feel happy; it brings back happy memories. ?
Classical music while studying, I should have done that. I tried like a dance house blend with no lyrics, but I wasn’t a fan of what I was listening to so it didn’t help with improving my memory
I generally find classical music relaxing, apart from Opera. I like some Opera but I wouldn’t listen to it to help me concentrate!
The only opera I know is from bugs bunny
I really do believe music can be so good for your mental health, whether you need a comfort song or something to sing out as loud as possible. Thank you for sharing more information on this subject 🙂
Thanks for commenting
I love this. I am a huge fan of music. In the past few days, I have been listening to music everyday. It’s wonderful how much good music can do for the soul, mental health and overall wellbeing. Great post.
Indeed, I can’t imagine life without music
Very interesting read! I wasn’t the biggest fan of listening to music when I was younger, but with the years it became a vital part. It’s been a tool to relax, concentrate and help me with my moods. Honestly, there’s nothing that music can’t help and totally agree that it has plenty of benefits! I use rain sounds when I want to concentrate and it works a treat for me!
That’s an interesting use of white noise to use the sound of rain like that
Yes. Music is a true healer and fires our imagination that can then change our lives.
Indeed it can
I love how magical music is! Not only fit the brain development of a whole new language, or a different way to understand fractions, but the amazing ability music has to rev us up or calm us down.
Yeah, I especially like it’s ability to work as a pick-me-up, because I need that a lot
I think music and showers are a lot alike. Depending on my mood, they each give me just what I need.
Very interesting! I do think music can change your mood. I often put music on when I’m doing boring stuff around the house like cleaning or washing up, and I instantly feel better 🙂 some songs just take me back straight away to happy times. I can’t even go a few hours without listening to my favourite songs!
You really can’t do chores without music
Such an interesting read! Honestly I love music a lot and I cannot function without music a single day. The playlists which are specially curated for specific mood is the best thing. And I really like to explore music genres too. Music is a part of our life. Thank you for sharing this information 🙂
Have you found yourself looking through the metal genres?
I knew music had the power to make one feel a certain way but it’s so fascinating to learn all the scientific back up to know that it’s true. Very interesting article!
It is very interesting isn’t it
music is so powerful! it’s a great way to express how you are feeling or put them into words. i don’t know what i would do without music.
I don’t know what is do without music either
This post is really interesting. I don’t listen to music often, but when I do, I’m always in a good mood. I feel totally immersed and I vibrate with the music. I avoid sad songs, precisely because they have the ability to change my mood.
Thanks for sharing
What a great post and music helps me to relax and boost my mental health, I have to listen to music with a fast beat as it raises my own heartbeat and I start bopping and releasing feel-good hormones.
It’s hard to stay still when there’s really good music playing
I love music and listen to it everyday. It really is multifunctional. It motivates me, improves my mood and often unlocks memories I completely forgot about. That’s all pretty powerful stuff. My love for music started when I was really young and it’s never left me! I can quite easily lose myself listening to music, as it can be so immersive.
Thanks for sharing your experience
This is spot on. I almost always put in sad music when I am feeling sad. It seems counterproductive but I guess it makes me feel the sadness on a deeper level which somehow allows me to get over it differently. Your post is so interesting. I love how in depth you’ve gone. Thank you for sharing!
Sometimes it’s just better to embrace the sadness with your music choice, rather than trying to force an emotional change
Music is one of the most powerful therapeutic tools for boosting mood and attitude. Not all music are created equal. Different types of music evokes different emotions. Either ways, unless you are a rock, music will definitelt move you. Another interesting blog.
Thanks for sharing your input
I never knew that the songs played in stores are played with the intention to influence shoppers, that’s interesting! I’ve not been able to listen to music since 2016 and it has felt very lonely without music. There are so many songs that have impacted me, got me through my dark times. Music is truly a beautiful thing, and I’m very thankful I had nearly 22 years of listening to incredible music.
If you don’t mind me asking, how come you can’t listen to music anymore?
Ah, sorry to hear that
Its ok, I have a collection of awesome songs in my brain which I remember so I still can hear them in my head, if that makes sense
Yeah, that makes sense. Can you still enjoy music through the vibrations they produce?
This is a really interesting post. Music helps to motivate me when I am cleaning or exercising. I like listening to it when I am travelling too. Thank you for sharing your blog post.
Thanks for sharing
This is so interesting! I definitely get motivated by music, but I didn’t realise it was such an influential tool.
Music has a wide range of influence
I have to agree. I find actually very therapeutic. Great post.