Psychological Benefits of Music

The idea that music can influence your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours probably doesn't come as much of a surprise. If you've ever felt energised while listening to your favourite fast-paced pop song or been moved to tears by a tender live performance, then you easily understand the power of music to impact moods and even inspire action. 


But the psychological effects of music can be more powerful and wide-ranging than you might assume. Music therapy is an intervention sometimes used to promote emotional health, help patients cope with stress, and boost psychological well-being. Some even suggest that your taste in music can provide insight into different aspects of your personality


Music can relax the mind, energize the body, and even help people better manage pain. So what other possible benefits might music provide? 


  1. Music Can Improve Your Cognitive Performance 

 Research suggests that background music, or music that is played while the listener is primarily focused on another activity, can improve performance on cognitive tasks in older adults. Specifically, one study found that playing more upbeat music led to improvements in processing speed while both upbeat and downbeat music led to benefits in memory

So, the next time you are working on a task, consider turning on a little music in the background if you are looking for a boost in your mental performance. Consider choosing instrumental tracks rather than those with complex lyrics, which might end up being more distracting. 


  1. Music Can Reduce Stress 

It has long been suggested that music can help reduce or manage stress. Consider meditative music created to soothe the mind and causing relaxation. Fortunately, this is one trend supported by research. Listening to music can be an effective way to cope with stress. 

In one 2013 study, participants took part in one of three conditions before being exposed to a stressor and then taking a psychosocial stress test. Some participants listened to relaxing music, others listened to the sound of rippling water, and the rest received no auditory stimulation. 


The results suggested that listening to music had an impact on the human stress response, particularly the autonomic nervous system. Those who had listened to music tended to recover more quickly following a stressor. 


  1. Music Can Improve Your Memory 

Lots of students enjoy listening to music while they study, but is that such a great idea? Some feel like listening to their favourite music as they study improves memory, while others contend that it simply serves as a pleasant distraction. 

The research suggests that it may help, but it depends upon a variety of factors which might include the type of music, the listener's enjoyment of that music, and even how musically well-trained the listener may be. 


So, while music may have an effect on memory, results may vary depending on the individual. If you tend to find yourself distracted by music, you may be better off learning in silence or with neutral tracks playing in the background. 


  1. Music Can Help Manage Pain 

Research has shown that music can be very helpful in the management of pain. One study of fibromyalgia patients found that those who listened to music for just one hour a day experienced a significant reduction in pain compared to those in a control group. 


In the study, patients with fibromyalgia were assigned to either an experimental group that listened to music once a day for four weeks or a control group that received no treatment. At the end of the four-week period, those who had listened to music each day experienced significant reductions in feelings of pain and depression. Such results suggest that music therapy could be an important tool in the treatment of chronic pain. 


A 2015 review of research on the effects of music on pain management found that patients who listened to music before, during, or even after surgery experienced less pain and anxiety than those who did not listen to music. While listening to music at any point in time was effective, the researchers noted that listening to music pre-surgery resulted in better outcomes. 

The review looked at data from more than 7,000 patients and found that music listeners also required less medication to manage their pain. There was also a slightly greater, though not statistically significant, improvement in pain management results when patients were allowed to select their own music. 

Music is a non-invasive, safe, cheap intervention that should be available to everyone in life. 


  1. Music Might Help You Sleep Better 

Insomnia is a serious problem that affects people of all age groups. While there are many approaches to treating this problem as well as other common sleep disorders, research has demonstrated that listening to relaxing classical music can be a safe, effective, and affordable remedy. ​ 


In a study looking at college students, participants listened to classical music, an audio book, or nothing at all. One group listened to 45 minutes of relaxing classical music while another group listened to an audio book at bedtime for three weeks. 


The researchers assessed sleep quality both before and after the intervention and found that participants who had listened to music had significantly better sleep quality than those who had listened to the audio book or received no intervention. Since music is an effective treatment for sleeping problems, it could be used as an easy and safe strategy for treating insomnia. 


  1. Music Might Reduce the Symptoms of Depression 

Researchers have also found that music therapy can be a safe and effective treatment for a variety of disorders, including depression. A study found that in addition to reducing depression and anxiety in patients suffering from neurological conditions such as dementia, stroke, and Parkinson's disease, music therapy showed no negative side effects, meaning it is a very safe and low-risk approach to treatment. 


One study found that while music can certainly have an impact on mood, the type of music is also important. Researchers found that classical and meditation music offered the greatest mood-boosting benefits, while heavy metal and techno music were found to be ineffective and even detrimental. 


Music has the power to inspire and entertain, but it also has powerful psychological effects that can improve your health and well-being. Instead of thinking of music as pure entertainment, consider some of the major mental benefits of incorporating music into your everyday life. You might find that you feel more motivated, happy, and relaxed as a result.