Tips & Tricks

Why Does Music Affect Our Emotions?

Imagine you’re driving to work or the grocery store, listening to the radio, and "Happy" by Pharrell Williams comes on. How does the song make you feel? Happy, right? How about sad songs like "See You Again" by Charlie Puth ft. Wiz Khalifa or "Someone Like You" by Adele?

The power of music is undeniable. It can uplift you on your sad days, bring back some of your happiest memories, boost your confidence before meeting a big client, and more. Why? Because it lights up the limbic system — the part of the brain responsible for processing emotions. 

Curious to learn more about the impact of music on your emotional state? This is the post for you. 

Is there science behind music affecting our emotions?

If asked why music is important, you'd likely highlight its entertaining elements and the fact that it elicits strong emotions. However, many people don't understand exactly how music affects human emotions. 

The impact of music on one's emotional state isn't just anecdotal but backed by scientific research. Various studies into the effects of music on overall well-being have revealed that there's more to the relationship between music and emotions than the surface-level changes in feelings we experience. 

For example, listening to your favorite songs doesn't just boost your mood — it activates the cerebellum, increasing blood flow to the legs. This is why you often feel the urge to dance when your favorite song comes on. 

Further, there's a strong relationship between music and the reward system. When you listen to your favorite tunes, your body releases the neurotransmitter dopamine into the dorsal and ventral striatum brain regions. 

Typically, these parts of the brain light up from stimuli like hugs from loved ones. However, good music can trigger the same reaction, hence the instant mood boosts. 

Apart from making you feel happier, music can also reduce your stress levels, blood pressure, and heart rate. Again, the relationship isn't just anecdotal — music reduces blood flow to the amygdala, also called the brain's "fear center." 

The result is lower cortisol levels and higher dopamine and oxytocin levels, resulting in a stress-relief effect. Consequently, lower stress levels result in better blood pressure and heart rate regulation. 

Moreover, research has found that music therapy helps manage mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. Music activities like playing instruments, listening to songs, singing, and dancing stimulate the release of feel-good chemicals like dopamine and serotonin. This distracts us from negative emotions. 

So the next time you feel anxious, angry, or upset, get your earbuds out or turn on your speakers and blast your favorite songs. Who knows — this may be all you need to instantly feel better. 

What is the connection between music and emotion?

Wondering why music lights up the feel-good parts of your brain and makes you want to put on your dancing shoes? Here's a look at the connection between music and psychology, with a focus on its impact on emotions.

Elements of music

Melody, harmony, and rhythm are fundamental components in music. Each one plays a unique role in emotional regulation. Melody, or the sequence of notes in a piece of music, can determine how you feel. Typically, a rising melody creates a sense of excitement, while a descending melody triggers feelings of melancholy. 

Similarly, harmony and rhythm can determine your emotions. Minor chords can elicit sadness, major chords happiness, gentle rhythms relaxation, and fast rhythms excitement. To test this theory firsthand, create playlists containing songs with varying elements and observe how they make you feel. 

Human experience

The emotions you experience when listening to certain songs or compositions can correlate to your personal experiences and memories. 

For example, if you’re going through a breakup, you may gravitate to sad music to help convey or reflect your emotions. This ultimately heightens your feelings of sadness. On the other hand, if you've achieved something great, you may resonate more with upbeat music, as it can enhance your feelings of joy. 

Similarly, music can evoke recollections, as it serves as an anchor for memories. With these recollections come strong emotional responses. 

Say you heard a particular piece of music during a memorable event, like a wedding or graduation. Hearing the same piece years later can take you back to that specific moment, making you feel the same emotions you did then. 

Genre and tempo

The relationship between music and mood isn't black and white. Different music genres and tempos can evoke euphoria, sadness, relaxation, or even a sense of rebellion. 

Think classical musical pieces like Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" or heavy metal pieces like Megadeth's "Peace Sells." These two pieces of music evoke very different emotions — the former elicits relaxation and calmness, while the latter sparks a sense of rebelliousness. 

Why? Because their tempos and instrumentation are different. Also, people often associate different types of music with different emotions. Classical music is often associated with relaxation, while heavy metal is associated with — you guessed it — rebelliousness. 

Cultural expression

Music is a powerful form of expression. As such, different cultures use it to shape their identities and emotions. And you can feel these emotions with every beat. 

Consider rural America's country music. It reflects the personal experiences of individuals in rural parts of the U.S., often carrying themes of country living, love, and heartbreak. Listeners can't help but feel such emotions when listening to country music, even if they don't live in the rural towns the musicians sing about.

How to use music to promote emotional well-being

Knowing the kind of impact music has on our lives, how do you use it to promote emotional well-being? Here are some tips.

Create mood-based playlists

Create playlists with music that caters to different emotions and occasions to ensure you have a collection ready for when you want to enhance certain feelings. 

For example, you can create an upbeat music playlist for instances when you want to pump yourself up for certain activities, like giving a major presentation. On the other hand, a slow-paced playlist will be better for evenings when you want to relax and decompress after a long day. 

Visit music-streaming platforms to get ideas on what kind of music to include in your playlists. Alternatively, you can ask for recommendations from your friends and loved ones. 

Practice mindful listening

Ever listened to a song and felt utterly engrossed in every beat or note, like you were, at that moment, feeling what the artist felt creating the song? You may have been mindfully listening to the music. 

Mindful music listening goes a lot deeper than just playing your favorite songs as background music. It involves applying present-moment awareness to your music sessions. You allow yourself to experience every instrument, notice the changes in rhythm, and feel the emotion behind every chord or note. 

To deepen your emotional awareness and relaxation during mindful music listening sessions, follow these tips:

  • Pick a type of music you love. 
  • Find a quiet, comfortable spot for your listening session. 
  • Start your session with a "fanfare" piece to introduce your main songs and free your mind from distractions. 
  • Focus entirely on the music. 
  • Take note of how your mind reacts to the music, without losing focus of your core goal — to listen to and feel every beat, sound, change in rhythm, etc. 
  • Reflect on your session when the music ends. Do you feel happier, nostalgic, sad, encouraged? Processing your emotions after each session helps you determine how different types of music make you feel, so you can be more intentional when playing them in the future. 

Pair music with physical activities

Pairing music with physical activities, like walking or yoga, can amplify your emotions by engaging your body as well as your mind. Music can also help you push through the discomfort of tasking activities, allowing you to complete what you set your mind to. This can, in turn, promote positive emotions. 

Create a playlist that's appropriate for the activity you want to complete. For example, you can choose upbeat pieces of music with faster tempos to motivate you during workouts.

Integrate music into your daily routines

Incorporate music into your everyday life to improve your mood, manage stress, and boost your overall well-being. You can use music to improve concentration when studying or working, play your favorite songs when hanging out with friends, or put on some background music when doing your chores. 

While integrating music into mundane everyday tasks may seem inconsequential, it can have a major effect on your mood and motivation levels.

Explore the harmonious connection between mind and music

Music has a profound impact on our emotional well-being. It can uplift your mood, evoke specific emotions, and help you relive memorable events. Observe how different pieces of music make you feel by constantly exploring new songs and genres.

You can also explore music more fully by learning to play an instrument yourself. If you’re interested in connecting with music on a deeper level, Trala is here to help!

When you sign up for lessons with Trala, you get access to expert instructors with experience with all kinds of music genres. Plus, the Trala platform offers a diverse music library that can help you assess the impact of different types of music.

Start with Trala today for expert music exploration guidance from world-class teachers!

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