We have all felt the mood changing effect of music.
Here is the science behind what is actually happening inside the brain.
Music can be have a huge effect on our well being and emotional state of mind. It can be mood changing in so many ways from comforting to empowering, from relaxing to inspiring and everyone has had a day improved by simply listening to the right music that connected with them in the right way at the right time. But now research has shown that music has a physical effect on our brains and bodies which can be measured. Here are some of the ways that we can use music to improve our health.
- SAD MUSIC LIFTS YOUR MOOD: Music is a massive tool in managing our moods and is hugely cathartic. Playing your favorite song or even finding a new one that evokes positive feelings has a great effect on our physical well being. It has the power to make our good moods even better. It entertains us, relaxes us and sets the right emotional tone. It may be surprising that not only does happy upbeat music improve peoples mental state and feeling of well being, but listening to sad music can also have a similar beneficial effect. Research published by Frontiers of Psychology (i) indicated that by listening to what is percived to be ‘sad’ music it stirs both positive and negative feelings within us. The study concluded that the key to enjoying some sad music is that despite us perceiving the negative emotions, our felt emotions are not as strong as the said perception saying “Emotion experienced by music has no direct danger or harm unlike the emotion experienced in everyday life. Therefore, we can even enjoy unpleasant emotion such as sadness. If we suffer from unpleasant emotion evoked through daily life, sad music might be helpful to alleviate negative emotion.”
- A CHILL DOWN YOUR SPINE: Research by Emily C. Nusbaum and Paul J. Silvia at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, NC showed that over 90% have felt a chill down our spine whilst listening to music (ii). It is also described as having goose bumps or shivers most commonly on the neck, scalp, and spine. The extent to which this is felt does depend on how open someone’s personality is to experiencing emotions openly and these people are more likely to play an instrument and place a greater importance of including music in their daily lives.
- ACTIVE LISTENING CAN INCREASE HAPPINESS: A study has shown that you CAN makes a conscious effort and deliberately better your mood by listening to music by actively engaging with the music. Research undertaken by Yuna L. Fergusona & Kennon M. Sheldon in The Journal of Positive Psychology (iii) studied two groups of people. Both were given the same piece of music to listen to with one group listening passively whilst the other group were encouraged to actively feel happier. They concluded that the “participants who were instructed to intentionally try to become happier (vs. not trying) reported higher increases in subjective happiness after listening to positively valenced music (i.e. Copland, not Stravinsky) during five separate lab visits over a two-week period…….. demonstrating that listening to positive music may be an effective way to improve happiness, particularly when it is combined with an intention to become happier.”
- IMPROVING OF VERBAL I.Q. A study looking at children who played an instrument or took extra-curricular music lessons proved that those children has measurably higher verbal IQ’s and increased visual abilities when compared to children who had no specific music training (iv) This backed up previous thinking that the benefits of playing instruments extend into increased visual perception and cognition.
- MUSIC TREATS HEART DISEASE Music has been demonstrated to play a vital role in reducing stress and anxiety in patients being treated for Coronary Heart Disease. A review by J. Bradt and C Dileo(v) of data collected for more than 1500 patients, suffering from heart disease, over 23 different studies, showed that listening to music does in fact reduce blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety.
- THE COLOR OF MUSIC: There has long been an association between the visualisation of certain colours whilst listening to certain music. Research by Stephen E Palmer et al. (vi) showed that participants from both the US and Mexico showed remarkable similarities in connecting duller and darker colours with sadder pieces of music, and lighter, more vivid colours with happier music. A follow-up study indicated that these music-to-colour associations were seen because of the emotional content of the music.
- SINGING TOGETHER BRINGS US TOGETHER: Singing can be a great social opportunity bringing together people from all walks of life. Research from Finland last year published in Music Education Research detailed that a study of around a thousand Finnish school children, across many different schools, who took extra music classes actually reported a higher satisfaction about the school and their own sense of achievement and perceived opportunities (vii). The lead researcher Päivi-Sisko Eerola, said: “Singing in a choir and ensemble performance are popular activities at extended music classes. Other studies have established that people find it very satisfying to synchronize with one another. That increases affiliation within the group and may even make people like each other more than before.”
- COULD MUSIC RESTORE YOUR VISION? The visual areas of the brain are affected in as many as 60% of people who suffer a stroke. This can lead to ‘visual neglect’ whereby the patient actually loses awareness of objects on the opposite side to where the brain has been damaged. However vital recent research has shown that when recovering stroke patients are able to listen to their favorite music, it can restore some of the visual attention (viii) and so music is more and more being used as a vital aid to the rehabilitation of stroke patients.
- SEEING HAPPY FACES: Did you know that a short burst of music, say 15 seconds, can be enough to change the way you judge the emotions on other people’s faces? A study by N. Logeswaran et al. (ix) found that a quick blast of happy music made the participants perceive other peoples faces as happier. They also found that same was true for an excerpt of sad music. The biggest effect however was noted when people looked at faces with a neutral expression. The study concluded that people projected the mood of the music they were listening to onto other people’s faces.
- BABIES ARE BORN TO DANCE! Infants as young as 5 months old have been shown to respond rhythmically to music and often seem to find it more interesting and captivating than speech. Fascinating research undertaken by by M.Zentner and T.Eerola (x) showed that the babies in the study spontaneously danced to all different types of music, and adjusted movements to any change in tempo. Those that were most in time also smiled the most. So maybe that just goes to show that music really is in our genes!
(i) http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00311/full (ii) http://spp.sagepub.com/content/2/2/199 (iii)http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17439760.2012.747000#.U7L1G_mSwno (iv)http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0003566 (v) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19370642 (vi) http://www.pnas.org/content/110/22/8836 (vii)http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14613808.2013.829428#.U7MLzfmSwno (viii) http://ajot.aota.org/article.aspx?articleid=1851684 (ix) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304394009003279 (x) http://www.pnas.org/content/107/13/5768