Play Me a Song …to Make Me Feel Better? – Music and Mental Health

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I have this friend who is suffering from a type of auto – immune disease, which basically means that his immune system is attacking the body’s own cells, causing all sorts of troubles and allergies and perhaps destroying the body in the process. He is a very cheerful person, always smiling and making tons of jokes and if you didn’t know about his illness, you would never suspect anything. I once asked him: “How do you manage to be so…cheerful about it.” He then showed me his playlist and said: “I listen to music. And when I listen to happy music, it makes me feel happy.”

The emotional impact music can have is widely known and used in music therapies to lift moods, boost self-esteem, enhance memory and manage stress.

Researchers at the University of Michigan also found that patients who suffer from depression or anxiety experienced a significant drop of the stress-inducing hormone cortisol when listening to music.

We all know music can help you to get through difficult times but can it also be beneficial to your mental health?

According to a meta – analysis of 400 music studies, music can reduce anxiety, help fight depression and even strengthen your immune system.

However, as described in an article published in Psychology Today, listening to music when you are suffering from depression can also have negative effects on your mental health.

A study conducted by a research team at the Center for Interdisciplinary Music Research at the University of Jyväskylä, the University of Helsinki and Aalto University in Finland suggests that, depending on the way music is used to regulate mood, listening to music can either be beneficial or harmful to mental health.

Participants were asked questions about their mental health and then evaluated by their level of depression, anxiety and neuroticism. Using the Music in Mood Regulation scale, scientists divided people who resort to music to regulate their mood into the following categories: Entertainment, Revival, Strong Sensation, Mental Work, Solace, Diversion and Discharge and found out that individuals who used music as an outlet for emotions (Discharge), by for example listening to angry music when they are frustrated, tend to be more anxious and had a greater level of neuroticism than those who used music to distract themselves (Diversion) or to find comfort (Solace). So the next time you want to scream along to some loud metal music to let out your anger, perhaps consider listening to the soft tunes of Liszt instead.

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Jenny Bui

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