The positive power of music

Music can inspire so many emotions. Hearing just the first few bars of a much-loved album track or a long-forgotten chart hit can create a deluge of memories.

Like an old friend that can provide an aural hug, music can help us in so many ways, whether you’re listening solo on your headphones or enjoying the collective experience of going to a concert.

It’s said that your music choice really can influence how you’ll feel – whether you’re seeking to wind down and relax with laidback grooves, soundtrack an energetic workout with an upbeat tempo, or just listen to a bit of background music while you work or chill out at home.

Revellers at a nightclub

Music is great at bringing people together, whether it’s through the shared experience of going to a festival or listening to a mixtape with a few friends at a house party. That shared experience helps to connect us with others and enhance social bonds.

A recent study in Australia suggested that people who actively engage with music, whether by dancing or simply listening, were found to be happier than others who didn’t engage with music in same way. 

Next time you ask your smart speaker to blast out some sounds, it’s worth remembering the positive impact your choice could bring!

Improve your mood

Happy girl at a music festival.

Ever had that goosebump feeling when you hear a particularly moving piece of music?

It could well be the result of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that triggers sensations of pleasure and wellbeing. Upbeat music causes our brains to produce chemicals which evoke feelings of joy, while calming music relaxes the body and mind.

Reduce anxiety and stress

Person laid relaxing.
Music can help to reduce heart rate and decrease stress hormones, so turn up the dial on those chill-out tunes. While we are all affected differently by music, studies do highlight how it can help when dealing with emotional stress or trauma.

Music therapy enables people to identify and express their feelings through music. Soft and slow sounds can help with relaxation as the  autonomic nervous system, in charge of breathing and heart rate, is engaged by music.

It’s been said that if a person can focus on the sound of the music, they begin to breathe in time to it and their heartbeat also starts to change, to flow in time with the beat of the music. The more soothing the music sounds, the more beneficial it will be in aiding relaxation.

Manage pain

Person receiving physiotherapy massage.Research has also shown that listening to music can help in managing pain and recovery from surgery. Some findings suggest that post-operative patients who listened to music had lower levels of anxiety and a lesser need for painkillers.

It’s thought that anything which distracts us from pain could help to reduce our focus on it. Researchers suggest that listening to a preferred choice of music can have a positive impact on pain tolerance and perception.

Increase your motivation

Woman working out in the gym wearing headphones.It mightn’t come as a surprise that playing up-tempo music while exercising can improve your workout endurance and increase enjoyment of challenging activities.

You’ll know exactly what I mean if you’ve ever been struggling a little during a fitness workout, then felt suddenly energised when the workout playlist starts to bang out sounds from one of your favourite bands. Spend a little time perfecting your workout playlist and you’ll reap the rewards! 

Stimulate memories

Three mix tapes on a table - labelled as "for when you're happy", "for when you're sad" and "for when you feel empty."

Everyone has a particular song or piece of music that can immediately transport us back to a place or time. It’s thought that we process memories and emotions which might be related to those musical sounds.

A piece of classical sheet music.

There have been studies into the positive impact of classical and ambient music, which was found by researchers to help some older adults perform better in memory tasks. Music is also being used in residential homes and institutions which specialise in care for people with dementia, in helping to bring people together and stimulate memories. 

Helps you eat better

Healthy meal of boiled eggs, tomatoes, tofu and beans.
It might sound a bit strange but bear with me here. Studies have shown that music can even help when you’re trying to stick to a healthy diet.

Research suggests that listening to certain genres of music might help to reduce emotion-related eating, highlighting links between unhealthy food choices and loud music. The suggestion is that listening to slower, softer melodies can encourage healthier choices and slower eating.

So, if reading all this is music to your ears, what do you enjoy most about listing to music and what’s on your personal playlist? 


Author: Michelle

Michelle is a former regional newspaper journalist now working as a Communications Co-ordinator at Teesside University. She’s happiest when listening to music and has a soft spot for indie-rock, house and 90s rave.