The Power of Music Listening on Mental Health
Here at Edge Water, we have the wonderful opportunity to help train a Music Therapy Practicum student this summer! While in college, all music therapy students get to spend a couple semesters working with a Board Certified Music Therapist. This is one way our profession is making sure our Music Therapy graduates are ready for their full clinical internship after they graduate! For this month’s blog post, our practicum student had a wonderful idea to write about some of the research behind music listening. So, it is my honor to introduce…
Laura Parra Acosta from Molloy University’s Music Therapy Program writing:
“The Power of Music Listening on Mental Health”
Have you ever wondered what listening to your favorite music can do for you?
For centuries music has undeniably found a place in our hearts, and it has easily become our partner during our happiest and saddest moments of our lives. Music can magically transform a bad day into a good day, or at least make it a better one! It can help us understand our emotions, it can recall and create new memories, and it can make us feel and act more empathetic towards others.
Different studies, like one by Dr. Valery Salimpoor called, “The Brain and New Music,” have shown that listening to your favorite music can trigger a release of dopamine to the brain, which means you are receiving happy chemicals as a reward from pressing the play button on whichever device you are using to listen to your favorite song. This study also mentions that this dopamine release occurs, not only when you are actively listening to music, but even before that happens. Just by thinking about that amazing chorus that takes place during a song, our brain immediately rewards us for anticipating that.
Another research study made by Yuna L. Ferguson and Kennon M. Sheldon mentions that purposeful listening to upbeat music can help us improve our mood and reduce stress, positively affecting our health and wellness. Also finding that listening to your favorite music can reduce your risk of heart disease, improve blood flow, and reduce stress related hormones.
In music therapy we used client preferred music to address different non-musical goals during a session. By using the client’s favorite songs, we give space to wellness and healing in a non-invasive way, bringing comfort from familiar situations that music has accompanied or created during our lives. Same as a soundtrack in a movie, music evokes events and takes us to different places and moments that will forever be imprinted in our subconscious. As music therapists, we are trained in both music and health care to promote healing through musical experiences. We also utilize verbal processing techniques before, during, and/or after to assist our clients and help them create awareness of the thoughts and feelings linked to external situations. This is one reason why music therapy, and music in general, is an excellent practice and tool to improve our overall mental health and well being!
Finally, in the article, “Music and The Brain: The Science Behind Your Favorite Songs” by Margot Schneider, music therapist Molly Warren says, “Research shows the benefits of music therapy for various mental health conditions, including depression, trauma, and schizophrenia (to name a few). Music acts as a medium for processing emotions, trauma, and grief—but music can also be utilized as a regulating or calming agent for anxiety or for dysregulation.”
So next time, when you are about to press that play button, remember what music is doing for you, and embrace all those wonderful benefits you are receiving from it!