The Playlist of our Lives: Music and Mental Health

Music is more than just entertainment to most of us. Music has played a central role in every human culture and civilization since the beginning of documented time. People of all ages, races, and backgrounds have made and listened to music. Humans need a soundtrack for their lives.

But, why? Obviously, it’s because we like it. But is there more to it than that?

Music and Mood

Mothers have sung lullabies to their babies across civilizations. People have celebrated great occasions with jubilant singing – and, they have mourned losses with aching melodies.

Today, our wide range of music streaming services makes it possible to pull up any kind of music at any given moment to match your mood or the mood you want to be in.

For instance:

  • Soothing playlists exist to help transition into sleep
  • Upbeat playlists help motivate individuals to exercise
  • Classical playlists may reduce stress and anxiety
  • Playlists with strong messages may empower

To be honest, there is a playlist for nearly every emotion and feeling that someone can experience. And, even better, today’s streaming services offer the option to create your very own playlist to suit your mood, memories, and any other reason you may have for listening to music.

Music and Mental Health

But music can do so much more than just influence our mood and make us happy. Scientists have researched the effects that music may have on our mental health and have discovered that it impacts our brains and can open up avenues of therapy.

Music stimulates the nucleus accumbens part of our brain, which increases those feelings of happiness and pleasure. Additionally, music reaches our neocortex in the brain and can calm us and reduce impulsivity.

Scientific studies have shown that music can help us in a wide variety of ways, including:

  • Reduce depressive symptoms
  • Increase emotional expression
  • Address loneliness, grief, and loss
  • Elevate coping skills
  • Improve emotion and mood regulation
  • Encourage self-reflection
  • Reduce stress and tension
  • Manage pain
  • Improve memory

Music has been proven to be effective in reducing negative behaviors experienced by individuals challenged by symptoms from the schizophrenic spectrum, psychotic disorders, bipolar disorders, depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, trauma- and stress-related disorders, personality disorders, and substance use disorders.

Music as a Form of Therapy

Shortly after World War II, the practice of music therapy developed and can be applied across the board to anyone hoping to become healthier, both mentally and physically. The American Music Therapy Association defines music therapy as: “Music is used in therapeutic relationships to address physical, emotional, cognitive and social needs of individuals.”

Therapy effects of music can be experienced in a variety of ways – and, definitely not just in a therapist’s office. Listening can relax us, increase our performance, regulate internal systems (blood pressure and heart rate), and restore memories. Attending live music performances allows us to socially interact and develop communities of people we enjoy being with. Music re-creation can reduce stress and anxiety, create social interaction, and provide outlets for emotions. Songwriting and lyric analysis provide less threatening opportunities for people to express themselves when typical forms of communication may be challenging.

Not Just in the Background

Music is not just in the background of our world. It improves our quality of life, empowers and motivates us, soothes us when we are uneasy or in despair, and it lifts us so that we can be the best version of ourselves. It speaks in ways that words cannot.

Albert Einstein may have said it best: “If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.”

SEKMHC Offers Playlists through Spotify

Because we understand the profound impacts music has on us, SEKMHC has created a Spotify account with a wide range of playlists for our community. Whether you seek empowerment, self-reflection, encouragement, optimism, or anything else, music has something for you! Check out our Spotify playlists at SEKMHC!