Mental Health Benefits of Music

By: Sierra Judge (@sierrajudge)

I’m sure everyone can agree that music can always make you feel better. Anytime I start to feel down, the first thing I do is put on a song I love. This can instantly flip my mood and make my day 10 times better. Listening to music can make you get lost in the sound and really forget about any unwanted thoughts. 

When thinking about music, your health probably does not cross your mind much. I was super surprised when I first discovered the many health benefits listening to music brings to your mind and body. 

Doctors have done many neurological studies to see the ways music affects your brain.  When we listen to music, different areas of our brain “light up”, stimulating positive effects like dopamine. Our bodies use dopamine to send messages between cells in the brain and affects how we feel pleasure. This then affects things like mood, motivation, attention, pain processing, and movement. When we hear music, our brain stimulates dopamine which then makes you feel good. At a university hospital in Sweden, one study looked at post-surgery pain management with versus without music (Greater Good Science Center at University of California). The results showed the patients who listened to music needed significantly less drugs to manage their pain.


brain scan with music

(This photo compares brain activity when listening to music while at rest. The difference is very apparent and makes it easy to see why there are so many positive effects.)

The release of dopamine in your brain doesn’t only give you a sense of joy, it also improves other skills, such as memory and motivation. If you’re trying to find the motivation to study or get your body moving, throwing your favorite playlist on will definitely help! I like to play upbeat/positive music when trying to complete tasks, it seems to keep me going through the end. A study that specifically looked at verbal memory found when music is played, memory improves significantly, while depression and confusion decrease. 

Music is a necessity for me when it is time to work out. Now more than ever, it is so important to keep yourself healthy. Listening to music during a workout has been proven to lengthen and intensify it by boosting endurance, even though in many cases it is unintentional. Listening to music with a high BPM (beats per minute) can increase heart rate and physical performance. Any Lost Lands or Excision set is normally my go to for work outs. 


Forbidden Kingdom festival yoga

(Forbidden Kingdom Festival yoga class, 2020, Boca Raton, FL)

Music therapy is commonly used to work on cognitive, emotional, physical, and social needs. I witnessed one music therapy session for a few kindergarten students who are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The happiness it brought these kids to sing and get to play different instruments warmed my heart. Even with just one 30-minute session, I could see improvements in physical activities, as well as emotional benefits. Music therapy can be used for many different disabilities and can target skills specific to a goal.  


music therapy session

(Music Therapy session at Boston Children’s hospital.)

Doing things that make you feel good and genuinely happy is so important for mental health. The chemistry of our brain allows music to improve mental health and reduce stress naturally. Everyone has different taste, so be sure to listen to whatever makes you feel good. Listening to recordings of past sets I have seen live is my favorite because it brings back all of the good memories I have associated with that time. Check out your favorite artists' music platforms (apple music, SoundCloud, etc.) or YouTube to find live sets, mixes, or to create your own feel good playlist. 

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