Music is power. It can truly be transformative and can enhance or change our mood instantly. Stevie Wonder wrote, “Music is a world within itself, with a language we all understand”. Similar to exercise, play and mindfulness, music can also be one form of natural antidepressant. From pepping you up when you are feeling low, to giving you the space to cry if you are wanting a contained space for your grief, music empowers us to take hold of our emotions.
According to research published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, by listening to mood-boosting music, people can indeed improve their moods and overall happiness in just two weeks (Ferguson & Sheldon, 2013). Research has shown that listening to music raises positive emotions via the reward centers of our brain. The hippocampus, prefrontal cortex and parietal lobe are the parts of the brain that are affected the most by music; most specifically – the rhythm, pitch and meter of a particular piece. Music has been seen as effective in helping those with neurological conditions, speech and language disorders and a host of other concerns/disorders. It has also been shown to be effective in mood-altering therapy. When listening to an upbeat song, serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine are released, which foster happiness elation and calm.
Listening to a certain genre of music can affect the way one perceives the world and situations they encounter. Additionally, music can change our inner experience and emotional states when we focus our attention on particular types of music in the present moment. In a similar way that practicing gratitude opens up our minds to notice more positivity throughout the day, listening to positive music can also help us notice and zone in on positive interactions on a more profound level (Jolij & Meurs, 2011). Not only did the University of Missouri study prove that listening to music can improve mood, but the study also found that this better sense of happiness brought forth through music can improve physical health, relationship satisfaction and even increase your earning power. Author and speaker, Gabrielle Bernstein (2011), writes “Music is one of the greatest tools we have to reconnect ourselves to our inner spirits”.
Some tips on listening to music to improve mental health:
- Create playlists that match the mood you’re looking to achieve. If you have a big test or are going out on a date, listen to some pepped-up and cheerful songs to get you feeling confident and strong. Rock or punk music can give you the adrenaline and energy boost needed to score the goal in soccer or boost your confidence to ask someone on a date. If you are looking to process feelings of grief in a contained space, create a playlist of songs with slow beats or in minor keys. Reggae music is also known to decrease anger intensity.
- Use music as mindful meditation. Due to our societal myth of over-busyness equaling success, we often get so caught up in the constant multi-taking that we forget to simply turn on the music. Set your alarm for a few times per day to remind you to take a break from work and listen to a song or two of soothing music. Both the tone and lyrics of songs can be comforting and soothing to someone struggling with any of the multitude of types of stress we experience in our world. Soothing music can relax your muscles, decrease cortisol levels and regulate your breathing rate. We all need these few moments of respite to reattach our minds to our bodies and positively connect in a grounded way.
- Utilize music for its inherent restorative quality as part of your daily routine. Music does not solely change your present mood in the moment, but it can also improve your future mood and perception throughout the day. Therefore, try to listen to some positive tunes as you wake up or on your way to the office to pro-actively create a pleasant tone for your day. Continue that momentum by listening to these positive tunes throughout your day, at the gym or while you’re making dinner.
In our fast-paced society, where money and time are of the essence, take back some control and utilize music as an inexpensive and empowering tool to improve your mood!
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. – Plato.
Bernstein, Gabriele (2011). Chords of love, Huffington Post. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gabrielle-bernstein/chords-of-love_b_810518.html
Florio, N (2014). How music changes your mood. Examined Existence. Retrieved from: http://examinedexistence.com/how-music-changes-your-mood/
Jolij J, Meurs M (2011) Music Alters Visual Perception. PLoS ONE 6(4): e18861.
Nauert, R (2013). Upbeat music helps improve mood. Psych Central. Retrieved from: http://psychcentral.com/news/2013/05/16/upbeat-music-helps-improve-mood/54898.html
Yuna L. Ferguson, Kennon M. Sheldon. (2013). Trying to be happier really can work: Two experimental studies. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 8 (1): 23-33