Music is a good way to live our daily life. But beyond the surface-level pleasure of a catchy tune or a melodious melody, it affects our mental health on a much higher level. It also helps us tap into our emotions, serving as a channel for expression when words are lacking. Whether it’s the melancholic strains of a ballad that resonate with our sorrows or the upbeat beat of a soulful tune that lifts our spirits, music becomes a vessel to articulate our deepest feelings.
To provide further insight into this topic, clinical psychologist and musicophile Bijay Lama discusses the impact of music on mental health and how people can use music in their daily lives to promote mental well-being. Lama holds a postgraduate diploma in counseling psychology from Tri-Chandra Multiple Campus, an MA in clinical psychology from Tribhuvan University and an LLB degree from Nepal Law Campus.
How does music affect mental well-being?
The mental health of individuals is greatly influenced by music. We face things like social unrest, an increase in violent crime, racism, and other challenges caused by advancing technology, creating generational divides. These issues have a huge and sometimes fatal impact on mental health, causing people to deal with anxiety, fear and despair.
Music is a powerful instrument that can affect a person’s mood, feelings and overall psychological state. A variety of musical elements help express a spectrum of emotions. When the right kind of music is heard, the vagus nerve vibrates, triggering a parasympathetic response that calms the body. Individuals have different tastes in music, and more importantly, they respond to different tunes in different ways. Additionally, music can provide a sense of understanding, support and connection during difficult and lonely times.
Are there physiological changes in the brain associated with listening to music?
The three main areas of the human brain are the cerebrum, the cerebellum, and the cerebrum. The cerebellum is divided into the left and right hemispheres. Writing, comprehension, numeracy and communication are areas where the left hemisphere often exerts its influence. The right hemisphere controls creative, artistic, musical and spatial abilities.
One of the most common effects of music is its power to change our moods and feelings because it releases dopamine in the brain. Developing musical skills enhances cognitive function by improving connections between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. This positively affects learning, memory, fine motor skills, verbal and non-verbal reasoning and learning. When you listen to music, specific areas of the brain are activated, such as the hippocampus, mainly associated with memory and spatial navigation. However, individual cognitive variations, musical preferences and other factors depend on physiological changes in the brain.
Are there particular genres or types of music that are more beneficial for mental health?
Individual preferences play a key role in deciding what type of music is beneficial to someone. Classical music, often associated with relaxation and stress relief, is associated with slower tempos and lower volume. Ambient music, nature sounds, and positive, energetic tunes can also be helpful. Basically, it comes down to a person’s favorites.
How can people use music in their daily lives to promote mental well-being?
Incorporating music into everyday life is essential for promoting mental health. People struggle and still seek survival despite the difficult daily circumstances they face. When you’re stressed, turn to music that helps you stay composed. Picking soothing and uplifting music to listen to while meditating can help you stay motivated and emotionally stable. It’s true that listening to uplifting and soothing music can improve daily life and mental health.
Can music help manage conditions such as depression or insomnia?
For some people, music can be a very supportive and helpful tool for managing their depression symptoms. Severe depression and severe or chronic insomnia often require the involvement of a health care provider in the evaluation and treatment process, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist. It is widely accepted that music facilitates emotional expression, improves mood, reduces stress and helps people struggling with insomnia by masking background noise and keeping their attention on soothing sounds. Personal tastes in music and selections vary by individual.
Are there individual differences in how people respond to music for mental health benefits?
Of course, everyone reacts to music differently, even in terms of its mental health benefits. A person’s lifestyle, musical tastes, and cultural background are just a few variables. People have unique life experiences and can identify closely with certain genres of music.
Different mental health disorders can affect how people react to music. For example, people may benefit from different genres of music based on their unique mental health needs, and music therapy is often tailored to address certain mental health issues. In general, a person’s psychological state at the time, especially their stress level and mood, can affect how they react to music. A person’s response to music can be influenced by personal experiences, including joy, tension or tragedy.