For many of us, music is a part of our daily life. Maybe we listen to it on our daily commutes, hear it playing in the store while doing the weekly grocery shopping, or experience it as part of watching a movie or TV show. Maybe you’ve even wondered if music can influence your mood! So, does it? The short answer: yes. The long answer: also yes! Recent research has taken a look at the connection between music and mood, finding that different music affects us in different ways. The benefits that can come from listening to music have even been compared to those associated with meditation. Music has been found to activate most regions of the brain, which may help to explain why it is so powerful. Listening to happy music can encourage dopamine production, which has a positive impact on behavior and mood, and has been shown to create feelings of joy. Additionally, music has an impact on heart rate, which will change along with the song; more uptempo songs will cause a higher BPM, while slower songs will result in a lower rate. A higher heart rate has been linked to increased feelings of anxiety, while a lower rate is generally associated with calmness. It can also help to reduce cortisol levels which decreases stress.
How can this information be used to your advantage? Great question! Just as music can impact mood, mood can impact music choices and intensify whatever feelings are present. The tempo, rhythm, chord progression, key, and many other characteristics may contribute to undesirable mental states, promoting anger, rumination, or sadness depending on the composition. The general trend is that calming, slow music has mood boosting outcomes, while more “chaotic” or “intense” music has the opposite effect, but this has also been found to be very subjective! Regardless of your taste in music, something to keep in mind is that the effects of music on our mood have been found to be most noticeable when listening without any distractions. Your “pump up” music may help motivate you to get through a workout (enhancing the benefits because of the extra dopamine you get from exercise) but if you’re looking for a calming effect, try to avoid scrolling on your phone or reading your book in order to maximize the impact.
Mental Health Counselor Intern