Music and Mental Health Segment 1.0

Music and Mental Health Segment 1.0

Here I don my music therapy cap to share with you some ideas about how the music you are listening to may be affecting your mental health. Perhaps this is not obvious for you to consider when making listening choices; most people listen to music based on what they think they ‘like’ and ‘dislike’ about it aesthetically without really considering the effects it may be having on their minds and bodies.

Simply asking yourself the question, ‘How is this song/piece making me feel, and is that supportive of what I need right now?’ is a great opener to becoming mindful about the effect of music on mental health factors. These include your mood, your ability to concentrate and your energy levels. Sometimes you might make choices along these lines intuitively, like when you listen to music with a faster tempo while exercising or to music with a slower tempo while relaxing. Other times, however, you might find yourself listening to music that you ‘like’ in a way which reinforces unhelpful moods or thinking states, such as procrastination or rumination.

Shifting your thinking about music from the level of pure aesthetic appeal to engaging with a deeper consideration of its impacts on your mental health can be really worthwhile. When used mindfully, music can help to shift your mood (and I’ll give you some tips for in coming segments) as well as enhance your cognitive faculties (such as attention and concentration), aid your endurance during exercise, and help you to regulate your emotions.

Remember, music works on our cognition and emotion in 2 ways:

1) Through associations. These are things such as memories and connections to particular emotional states relating to particular people, places and experiences.  In these cases, music evokes associative feeling states through the activation of emotion memory in the brain.

2) Through musical elements. These are things like tempo, tonality, instrumentation, texture, structure, points of tension and release. In these cases, music creates changes such as the disruption of expectation, physiological arousal (eg. quicker tempo will raise pulse and breath rates), and the feeling of bodily rhythms such as walking/breathing etc. synchronising to the pulse of the music.

Start to simply become aware of these elements when you are listening to music. In my next post, I will talk you through a step-by-step guide to designing a playlist to shift a mood state through 10 carefully selected songs and pieces (chosen by you).

Any feedback on your experiences in the comments space below would be so valuable!

Words by Kirsten.

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