Music gives the mind a boost

Everyone has a connection to music whether they listen to it much or not.

Everyone has a connection to music whether they listen to it much or not.  Music has become a very large part of peoples’ lives and with new origins of music softwares coming out on the market by the thousands; music has become an immense benefactor to culture. Music has a special power to move people and stir emotions. Anyone who has ever wiped tears away while listening to a favourite sad song will know how powerful simple notes and chords can be. A 2013 study at the University of Missouri has found that music is more than just an enjoyable factor of life; it is also a large part of people’s overall health, source of mood change and ability to concentrate.

Over the years, many studies have been done to better understand the nature and extent of the effects music has. The results consistently show that listening to the kind of music related to the emotions a person is currently experiencing usually boosts and strengthens those feelings. Most studies show that when after participants heard a short piece of music, they were more likely to interpret a neutral expression as happy or sad, to match the tone of the music they heard throughout the experiments. What was discovered sometimes people can understand the emotions of a piece of music without actually feeling them and this seemed to explain why some people find listening to sad music enjoyable, rather than depressing.

When people listen to music they enjoy, levels of dopamine in the body were found to be up to 9% higher. Dopamine is a chemical with the body that is known to produce a feel-good state in response to certain pleasures, from eating sweets to taking cocaine. The chills one gets from listening to certain music, is caused by the dopamine levels rising to maximum pleasure.  Daniel Levitin, a psychologist who studies the neuroscience of music at McGill University in Montreal, did multiple studies over the topic of music within the brain. In one study reviewed, researchers studied patients who were about to undergo surgery. Participants were randomly assigned to either listen to music or take anti-anxiety drugs. Scientists tracked patient’s ratings of their anxiety, as well as the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The results: The patients who listened to music had less anxiety and lower cortisol than people who took drugs.

Many of the studies, investigated the effect of music on emotions and happiness. When this connection between music and happiness is understood, it can predict which songs will create happy and why certain music already does. When people are in a happy or giddy mood, they tend to choose happy, cheerful, joyous songs, over those of harsh, grungy, violent song genres. Sad music educes a similar, almost cloned; sense of happiness. Music that is perceived as sad actually induces romantic emotions as well as sad emotions.  Unlike sadness in daily life, sadness experienced through art actually feels pleasant, possibly because the artistic forms do not pose an actual threat to personal safety. And people, regardless of their musical taste, experience these conflicting emotions while listening to sad music. This could help people to deal with their negative emotions in daily life, rather than have the belief that sad is sad, and happy is happy; music is a form of art, and art is simply an expression of emotion.

Are you facing a daunting task?   Try focusing on some favourite songs to combat de-motivating brain signals associated with fatigue, stress or boredom.  Tuning into those favourites can be incredibly soothing giving the brain and body a motivational, yet restful boost.

Pamela Ana MA & CCC, owns Wellness Matters Counselling and Psychotherapy. Call 778-419-3300.

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