Why Music Can Help You Heal: New Findings About Music’s Benefits To Your Mental Health

As challenges accumulate with age, it can be difficult to find the space and strength to confront your suffering mental health. From late teens to early adulthood, it can be normal for people to experience heightened anxiety, depression, or the re-surfacing of past trauma(s). Naturally, seeking professional help should be your initial reaction to the discovery of your symptoms. However, most mental health professionals are likely to suggest that you also actively pursue your own recovery by finding healthy passions. Fortunately, it just happens that music is both a fantastic hobby and medicine for the mind.

Understanding How Music Affects The Brain 

Music simultaneously uses multiple brain functions to complete the combination of timing, creativity, and structuring tasks required to assemble sound notes musically. Music-making is the performance of various cognitive tasks, ranging from mathematical problem-solving to stimulus analysis.

Fortunately, this hard brain work is both pleasant and beneficial to your mental and physical well-being. Notable improvements for the player/listener are usually:

  • Cognitive
  • Behavioral
  • Emotional
  • Psychological

How Brain Responses To Music Impact Your Well-being 

Increased brain function generally characterizes cognitive improvements. For some, this can be experienced when listening to music while studying, which can improve your capacity to focus. It can also mean that playing music for an hour in school can make the following math class easier to understand.

Behavioral changes are often the result of psychological and emotional changes that are either hormonal or experience-based. A research found that the hormone oxytocin can be released in substantially greater levels when a person is exposed to music. This hormone has often been deemed “the hormone of love” because it promotes bonding, socializing, and relaxation around other people. By increasing your brain’s release of this hormone, you are likely to experience greater ease socializing, which may, in turn, encourage you to spend time with friends and family.

Oxytocin is also deemed an emotional hormone because it facilitates bonds between people. Listening to music also leads to the release of dopamine, which is linked to both energy and happiness. The lethargy, and consequential feeling of “emptiness” is experienced during depression is often the result of low dopamine levels. A lack of dopamine will leave you constantly feeling tired and demotivated, which in turn will prevent you from completing enough physical activity. In the long run, this will lead to a decrease in your serotonin levels, which dictate how easily you sleep, and how comfortably your body relaxes after using effort. Frequently listening to music may help prevent these hormonal dysfunctions, by encouraging exercise and regular energy use — and even exertion.

From a psychological standpoint, music can significantly improve your mood. Besides the hormonal changes it can cause to achieve this result, music is also simply enjoyable to the human ear. The pleasure experienced while listening to music, and the “mirroring” effect of our emotions when we relate to art can serve to your advantage. Our brains strive to empathize with feelings suggested through art by experiencing similar emotions. Therefore, it should be no surprise that listening to sad music can sometimes heighten your sorrow, while “positive,” inspirational music can improve your mindset as a whole.

How To Use The Medicine Of Music To Improve Your Mental Health

Music shouldn’t be used alone to combat chronic mental health issues. However, there are three major ways in which it can help to heal you, especially when combined with professional assistance.

Music Reduces Stress Levels 

Stress is caused by the hormone cortisol. Music has been found to help reduce cortisol levels, even in situations where people can experience severe anxiety, such as the hours or minutes before surgery. The increase in dopamine many experience while listening to music, can also bring back the intensity of pleasurable sensations, such as eating chocolate or going on a run.

Related: 5 Ways to Tame Your Mind in Stressful Times

Music Helps Combat Depression 

Science has shown us countless ways in which music can improve a person’s state of mind, bringing back a sentiment of hope into their lives. Listening to music regularly, preferably opting for a positive message, is likely to help you feel connected to your environment. This can improve your sentiment of trust in those around you, which in turn will alleviate the struggle of tackling your depression alone.

Music Alleviates Performance Anxiety 

Performance anxiety increasingly slithers its way into your life as you grow older. The fear of failing in school, university, at work, or in your home life will increase your stress and anxiety levels, and promote procrastination. Music improves performance by helping you focus and motivating you to work faster and harder by following the tempo. If you’ve ever wondered why listening to a high-energy song was so beneficial to your running or cycling, you may want to read up on this Vivo lab experiment.

Image by Medina Films / Pixabay

Music is one of the most precious things in our lives. It allows us to bond and helps our brains cope with the stresses and pains of mental illness. If someone you know needs a mood boost, share this article to spread the gospel of musical medicine to those you love.

Written by Editorial Staff

Editorial Staff at MyDailyBrain is a team of enthusiastic experts who have a passion for human cognitive and brain sciences. View all authors »

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