Humans are emotional beings; we have intuitive responses to external factors that generate feelings and inner thoughts. These emotions are natural and normal, yet sometimes we need to take control of them to cope. Can music enhance our mood and aid our mental well-being?

The Connection Between Music and Mood

The right choice of music can create calm or energise, it can encourage productivity or lift spirits.

Would you classify music as entertainment or art, rather than a tool for altering our emotional state?  If so, just think about your playlists for a moment. Consider the tempo, beat, rhythm and lyrics that we choose to play during a gym workout or when getting ready for a night out. Compare that to your Sunday morning playlist or the songs you like to hear through your headphones when working. There is often a link between the music and how we want to feel.

It’s no coincidence that music is played in restaurants, shops, television documentaries, gyms and workplaces. It is a powerful tool for creating a specific mood. Sometimes, we may not even notice it and it may not be our preferred genre, yet it is there in the background, influencing how we feel.

Music has also been shown to have medical benefits including reducing the need for pain relief during surgical procedures. A study into the effects of musical interventions in patients experiencing neurological conditions* reported improvements in mood, psychological well-being and quality of life.

Sometimes, even sad music can have a positive effect on the listener. In a study conducted by Durham University in 2016**, many participants reported a sense of comfort from listening to sad tunes.

Music & Workplace Productivity

In 1940, the BBC launched ‘Music While you Work’ which played a varied playlist of familiar music. The show was designed to be played in UK factories, where workers were undertaking mundane and repetitive tasks. The aim was to make the work environment more enjoyable and productive by giving workers something else to focus on. The show aired for both day and night shift workers for 27 years.

Whilst some people prefer to work in silence, music is still played in many workplaces. It can be a distraction if you need to concentrate, yet it can help employees and visitors to be creative, productive and positive. Do you use music at work to enhance the performance of your team?

Music as a Non-toxic Stimulus

Like exercise, natural sunlight and sleep, music is a non-toxic stimulus that can alter our emotional state. As such, it can be a powerful way to improve mental health. It has been proven that music can lower heart rates, blood pressure and cortisol levels, all of which have physical health benefits. It also triggers the release of dopamine, the feel-good chemical in our brains.

When we can recognise feelings of stress, anxiety or depression forming, the best action could be pressing play on our favourite tunes. This isn’t about denying natural feelings and responses, it is simply a helpful way to self-regulate our mood and prevent a negative spiral.

Being able to alter our emotional state can also impact our thoughts and behaviours. So, music has the power to improve our physical, emotional and cognitive performance.

Music Sparks a Memory

Have you noticed that hearing a certain piece of music can instantly take you to another time and place? You recall where you were, who you were with and what you were doing. Even people suffering from conditions which affect memory, including dementia, can often hum or sing along to a familiar song.

This shows there is a strong connection between music and memory. Finding those tunes that take us back to a time and place when we remember feeling content, happy, free and joyful can be motivational. They can also help us to cope when facing the challenges of life.

Musical Support for Mental Well-being

Understanding the impact of music on mental well-being, Fat Boy Slim recently provided music workshops for Make your Mark***. This NHS, Heads On funded, arts and health programme aimed to improve the accessibility and inclusivity of music and arts. Participants, who are struggling with their mental health, had the opportunity to try a range of creative activities which could aid their recovery.

In Armagh, Ireland, musicians recently held the 40 Shades of Green concert. The event brought people together and provided a great evening of entertainment. The artist also raised £400 for PIPS Hope & Support, a local suicide prevention charity.

Gareth Malone’s inclusive Choirs have brought together people who may not have considered themselves singers. Music and performing together created a sense of connection, belonging and achievement that, in some cases, transformed lives.

In Summary

Music is more than entertainment. The right music at the right time can aid our memory, productivity and energy levels. By altering how the listener feels, subtle changes can be made to thoughts and behaviours, which can boost physical and mental health. Is it time to embrace music in your home or work life?

 

* https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4369551/

** https://www.dur.ac.uk/news/newsitem/?itemno=28329

*** https://www.sussexexpress.co.uk/whats-on/arts-and-entertainment/fatboy-slim-launches-music-workshops-for-people-with-mental-health-problems-in-sussex-3740931