I want you to imagine a scene for a moment.
You just had a bad day at work. Like a really bad day. You are currently feeling absolutely miserable, and as though you just want to curl into a ball and forget the day happened. You can’t though, because you also have debt you need to sort out, and dinner you need to cook, and the house is a mess.
And you did want to work out tonight!
For many of us, this crushing sense will become too much and we’ll end up curling in the fetal position on the couch nevertheless.
But instead, you pop your headphones on, and you start listening to your favorite music. It’s an up-tempo tune that reminds you of better times, and that has lyrics about taking on anything. You feel supercharged, and you get to work!
This is the healing power of music! So, what just happened? It goes beyond the simple fact that the music you listened to happened to be something you really enjoyed and that perked you up. Rather, music can actually trigger the release of specific brain chemicals. Several studies for example demonstrate that listening to music can actually reduce the stress hormone cortisol. This works best as you might expect when the music is upbeat. It can also encourage the release of dopamine, which tends to occur during the “peak emotional moments.” Why this happens is uncertain, but it possibly has something to do with alterations in brainwaves affected by rhythm and pitch.
For those looking for a method of self-care that can help them to improve their mood, a good piece of music might be just what they need.
The problem? Many of us will tend to listen o music that won’t help our mood, but that will rather echo their current mood.
In other words, when we are down, we tend to seek out sad music. Happy or upbeat music is simply too incongruous.
A solution to this issue though, is to listen to music that starts low tempo and perhaps a little melancholic, and that then rises in tempo and mood until it reaches a happy crescendo. By doing this, you can actually gradually raise yourself out of a funk.
That said, research also shows that sad music can be cathartic when we are feeling low.
So, whatever you need to feel, take some time out to close your eyes, and put on some headphones. Let the music take you away.