Music is such an essential part of every human being's livelihood that we could never imagine a world without it. Could you imagine a movie without a score and soundtrack? Surely no. But music isn't as easy of a concept as we might think. There're many layers and complexities within itself that many scientists have researched and discovered a lot of exciting features. Today I want to touch on several interesting aspects of music that researches uncovered throughout the years. Let's dive in!
Barry Goldstein, a recording artist who has studied the vibrational effects of music for more than 25 years, says music has a profound impact on the brain. In a column for Conscious Lifestyle magazine, Goldstein wrote that music could enhance brain functions. He said music could evoke emotion, help regain memories, stimulate new neural connections, and active attention.
Therefore, there were researches made on people with symptoms of depression, where the results of listening to music during mentally tough times could have had very different effects depending on the person. The mood changes for better or worse also depends on the person's ability to choose the right type of music for those situations, which we will later touch on in this article. This basically means music is a double-edged sword that should be handled carefully. And to give examples on music genres affecting the mental state, the researchers showed how classical and relaxing music increased positive moods, techno and heavy metal brought people down even more.
During the studies, scientists have shown that music also has a direct effect on our hormones; many even consider it as a natural antidepressant! Why? Because specific tunes and sounds can cause the release of serotonin and dopamine (neurotransmitters) in the brain, which leads to increased feelings of happiness and well-being. It also releases norepinephrine, which is a hormone that invokes feelings of euphoria.
More than 264 million people suffer from depression around the world, and 90% of them also experience insomnia. The above research also found that symptoms of depression only decreased in the group that listened to classical or relaxing music before going to bed.
We saw that the different types of music could affect people differently, but then there comes the question: how could I choose wisely? You need to be self-aware! I call this concept the musical awareness, which means you will not worsen your mental state by listening to inappropriate tunes when you shouldn't. It also directly ties into emotional awareness, or the ability to identify personal experiences, which can be a protective factor against psychopathology by allowing an individual to recognize the need to activate appropriate emotion regulation strategies.
Experiments were conducted on seven young people with symptoms of depression. I don't want to bother you with unnecessary details so I will cut to two main sections of the experiments. (you can read the whole experiment here)
Music That Differed From Current Mood
The researchers looked into the listening patterns of the participants and started questioning them one by one. They asked about whether they listen to songs that reflect what participants feel inside when they feel down or to ones that have a contrasting atmosphere. Several participants were in the second camp, as one of them said "If I'm feeling depressed I tend to put on happy music like cheesy pop and things to try and cheer myself up almost. Something with a fast tempo to kind of boost my mood." They also noted that calming music helps them to deal with anger and anxiety: "If I'm listening to classical music because I'm trying to calm myself down, it's soothing. It helps me relax. It's more like trying to relax that I'm feeling the music and trying to absorb every note". However, there was a participant who didn't really like listening to music that didn't match her mood. It gave her "the impression that everyone else is having fun except for me."
Music That Mirrored Current Mood
The participants who opted to listen to songs reflecting their mood had different goals on their mind. Even though, mostly their strategies aimed at coping with the negative mindset instead of changing it.
Some of them were trying to be "comforted" and feel at ease, and they went on to say "I'm tired and I'm still sad, but it's less heavy, and it's like someone understands." This external validation of their feelings helped them to get through tough times and feel like they have a friend listening and being there. They also pointed out that listening to music which is "at a level that is just a little bit above what I'm feeling, to maybe bring me up a little bit but not so much that it would bother me."
However, some disagreed by telling how having songs with suicidal lyrics and mood made them feel even worse. It even left one participant, not even "motivated enough to change the music."
This article just scratched the surface of the conceptual meaning and effect of music on individuals. We didn't even consider the lyrical content, the tempo and the past relationship of people with music, considering we develop listening patterns from childhood. We didn't examine the experiences entangled in-between the musical notes, the ones we might cherish and feel sad about for long years to come. Nevertheless, I hope you have gained some insight into how music affects people, and even though this post's goal was to be informative, I urge you to seek information about obtaining musical awareness if you feel the need.