mental health Elsa Smith

How Listening to Music Can Have Psychological Benefits

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Listening to music is a great way to get entertained. But it does a lot more than entertain us. It reaches the innermost parts of our souls and mysteriously refreshes us. 

Over the years, scientists have explored the effects of listening to music and discovered many benefits. Melody, harmony, and rhythm stimulate the release of feel-good chemicals like dopamine and oxytocin. It also lowers the levels of cortisol – the stress hormone. Listening to music helps us feel happier and calmer

Mental health practitioners understand the psychological benefits of listening to music. Some use music therapy to improve the mental health and well-being of their patients. Here’s a peek at what music therapy is and some of the benefits of listening. 

What is music therapy?

Music therapy is a research-based technique in which a practitioner uses music to boost a patient’s mood and well-being. Therapists often incorporate various genres in supporting clients to enhance their moods and improve mental health. Studies show that music plays a significant role in helping with various conditions such as Autism Spectrum Disorder. 

But what exactly does listening to music do? And, how does it affect your psyche? Below are some of the benefits.

Listening to music makes you happier

As we already mentioned, listening to music can make you happier. When you listen to your favorite tunes, they strike a chord in your nervous system and trigger happy memories as well as the release of feel-good chemicals dopamine and oxytocin. 

Researchers discovered that music plays a significant role in improving self-awareness and arousing and boosting a person’s mood. Studies show that listening to positive music daily for about one hour can drastically improve your mood within a fortnight. Practitioners also report that listening to music is one of the best ways to calm agitated Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. Music boosts their moods and opens doors for communication. 

Music is a great motivator and boosts our cognitive abilities

Do you ever wonder why you find it easier (and more pleasant) to exercise or work when there’s music playing in the background? Listening to background music boosts our ability to focus and motivates us to work harder. This is why the ancient sailors had drummers as part of the crew – to help urge oarsmen on. 

So if you want to keep up with a workout routine or have a tight deadline to meet, consider playing appropriate music in the background. It will boost your motivation and enjoyment. 

Music helps us express ourselves

Music is a powerful tool for expressing how we feel. We can use music to express our emotions even by listening (not just creating). Music mysteriously strikes a chord with our nervous systems, and we unconsciously hum or sing along. It triggers feelings like sorrow, anger, or joy and helps us process them. 

For instance, listening to sad music can be therapeutic when dealing with grief. Listening to ‘angry’ music can help us process stress and anger. 

Reduces stress

Music not only helps us process emotions, but it can also help us manage them. 

There are two kinds of stress – acute and chronic. Acute stress helps us cope (respond appropriately) to a stressor. However, if it lingers for too long, it can degenerate into chronic stress – accompanied by symptoms like headaches and insomnia. 

When we face a stressor, for example, a work situation, acute stress enables us to cope in the short run. If we remain ‘stressed’ for a long time, we could develop chronic stress. But if you tune up, music can relieve acute stress and prevent it from degenerating into chronic stress. 

It relieves anxiety and depression

Music has a calming effect. It goes a long way in relieving anxiety and depression – conditions that affect nearly a third of all Americans. 

If you have been diagnosed with anxiety or depression, consider complementing your current treatment with music sessions. As you listen, your body triggers pleasure and reward zones helping to relieve anxiety and depression. 

Listening to music helps us to relax, sleep better, and ward off disorders

Meditative music induces relaxation of both the body and mind. Studies show the calming sounds of genres like jazz and classical music are very effective in helping you to unwind and relax. Experts recommend such tunes to people battling insomnia and compulsive eating disorders. 

When you listen to soft tunes before bedtime, you are likely to experience better sleep. On the other hand, listening during mealtime helps to slow down the pace. Thus reducing the quantity and helping keep the calories in check.

Listen to musicPhoto by jonas mohamadi

Final words

Our ancestors believed music transmitted magical powers to heal, inspire and renew. It seems like they were not too far from the truth. The above benefits of listening to music are scientifically proven. But they are just the tip of the iceberg. Music can drastically improve your mental health and well-being in ways yet to be tested by science. 

Regardless of the issue, listening to the right kind of music often would positively complement other therapy efforts. It is a safe, effective, and affordable remedy.​

Elsa Smith
Author: Elsa Smith