Music is Therapeutic for Everyone

Written by: Abigail Saneholtz, Psy.D., Licensed Psychologist
Music has such a large impact on our lives! It crosses cultures, age groups and has an effect on everyone. It can make you smile, dance, sing, cry, instantly recall memories like they were yesterday and process emotion. Many people listen to music because they identify with the song’s words and the strong emotions felt. Often people describe that listening to music has a therapeutic effect that impacts their overall mood.

The Therapeutic Effects of Music

Think back to the last time you listened to an upbeat and happy song that left you feeling energized, alive and excited! Or recall a time when you were sad or angry – What songs did you gravitate toward in that moment that conveyed what you were feeling? Listening to music is a helpful way to cope with and process emotions. It can evoke a connection to what individuals feel at different moments in their lives.

Studies on the Therapeutic Impact of Music

Yuna Ferguson, Ph.D. (University of Missouri) conducted two studies that were published in the Journal of Positive Psychology that “provided support for what many people already do – listen to music to improve their mood.” Ferguson’s results found that “the effect was both self-directed and psychological”. “Participants were instructed to try to feel happier while listening to either upbeat or neutral music. The upbeat listeners came out on top as far as overall impressions of happiness”. The results show that we can change our mood by listening to some good music.
Many neuroimaging studies, (Koelsch, S.; Salimpoor, V. N., et. al.) show that music can activate different areas of the brain that are part of the limbic system. These areas include the amygdala and hippocampus that are associated with generating emotions. In addition, music can also activate the pathways that transmit dopamine, which results in the enjoyment and increased pleasure associated with listening to music. So, next time you are having a difficult day consider tuning into what’s on the radio or find a playlist that can help you turn it around!

The Therapeutic Benefits to Listening to Music

When exploring the impact music has on our mind and body there were numerous articles that showed many more positive effects that we can all benefit from when listening. One of these articles came from The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California at Berkeley that detailed such beneficial effects that can help make us healthier. Five benefits include:
• Stress and anxiety reduction
• Motivates us to exercise
• Decreases pain
• Improves immune system functioning
• Helps improve memory

Family Psychology Associates Offers Many Mental Health Services

If you or your family members are having difficulties coping and are in need of guidance or support, Family Psychology Associates is here to help! We have a wide range of mental health specialties including anxiety disorders, stress management, behavioral disorders, relationship counseling, family therapy and more. We have two offices in Trinity (727) 203-3770 and Safety Harbor (727) 725-8820 that can provide assistance in your area. Call us today to talk to our caring and compassionate staff to schedule an appointment.

Music is Therapeutic Links:

For additional information check out these interesting articles on the effects of music on the brain, mood and behavior:

Check out this link that provides the top 500 songs by Rolling Stone that crosses different musical genres and decades:

Music is Therapeutic Resources:

Ferguson, Yuna, L. & Sheldon, K. (2012). Trying to be happier really can work: Two Experimental Studies, Journal of Positive Psychology, 8(1), 22-33.
Koelsch, S. (2014). Brain correlates of music-evoked emotions. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 15(3), 170-180.
Salimpoor, V. N., Benovoy, M., Larcher, K., Dagher, A., & Zatorre, R. J. (2011). Anatomically distinct dopamine release during anticipation and experience of peak emotion to music. Nature Neuroscience, 14(2), 257-262.