Music plays a big part in our lives.
Research suggests that music can stimulate the body’s natural feel good chemicals (e.g. endorphins, oxytocin). It can help energise our mood and provide an outlet for us to take control of our feelings. Music can even help us work through problems in our lives.
For example music can help us to:
- Manage stress
- Express feelings
- Enhance memory
- Improve communication
- Promote wellness
- Promote physical rehabilitation
- Alleviate pain (Did you know that focusing on music reduces your brain’s perception of pain?)
Listening to music is a popular way to cope with difficult times. For example, it can sometimes express how we are feeling or vent difficult thoughts and emotions for us. You may be able to relate to the music and find comfort from the words in a song.
By listening to music we may feel our mood or energy improve, but sometimes we may actually feel worse. So how can we work to ensure the way we use music has a positive effect on us?
What does your music do for you?
To find out how music affects you, try and become aware of the effect certain songs, styles, artists have on you.
Some music may allow you to sit with a mood, explore it, understand it, but not feel worse from doing so.
Other music might help you change a mood, or set a new mood. This can be helpful if it helps you bring your mood/emotions to a more stable place.
To discover the effect music has on you, consider the following points:
- Does the music allow you to sit with a mood, change a mood or set a new mood?
- Does it make you feel better or worse?
- Is it helpful to feel worse? When does it stop being helpful? For example, rather than music having a calming effect on you, listening to it might make you feel more angry or anxious.
- When is it not helpful?
- Is it a certain style of music that is helpful or unhelpful or is it a certain artist or words in a song?
Managing your music
Once we are aware of how music affects us we can then start to intentionally use it to improve our wellbeing.
Many people say that having their music on shuffle is not the best thing when they are having a tough time. Rather, being aware of your music choice, and selecting songs or playlists that you know can help you cope in a positive way, can be more helpful at times.
Considering the questions listed above may help you work out which music would be on which playlists.
Why not have a go at creating a few playlists for different emotions?
- Music to wake me up
- Music to energise me
- My happy music
- Music for venting frustration
- Nostalgic music
Listening to music doesn’t have to be the only way it can be helpful. Sometimes you may find singing or dancing along is the actual factor that has the positive effect. Try putting on some great songs to belt along to! Otherwise, you might try listening to live music, or actually writing and playing your own songs. The key is to become aware of how different music affects you.
Actively and intentionally selecting and using your music can be a really helpful way to feel more in control of your feelings.
Take a look at our page Music and emotions, where men have talked to us about the music they use to help express and regulate their feelings.
This page was adapted from information prepared by Cheong-Clinch, Hense and Goulding 2012. We are grateful to Tune in Not Out for allowing us to include this information on our website.
Grape, C., Sandgren, M., Hansson, L.O., Ericson, M., & Theorell, T. (2003). Does singing promote well-being? An empirical study of professional and amateur singers during a singing lesson. Journal of Integrative Physiological Behavioural Science, 38, 1, pp. 65-74.