The Effects Music Has On The Body And Mind

Ultimate Guitar brought us this very intereting article on how music effects our lives in a great deal of ways. Go for it:

Many of us listen to music without having the academic understanding of ‘why’ it makes us feel a certain way. We select the artists, the songs, and the tracks. We adjust the treble, midrange, bass, and of course- the volume, before we enjoy the sounds and audio delights brought forth by our favorite musicians the world over. However, do we consistently ask ourselves this simple question: ‘Why do I enjoy this?’ I know, it’s a basic question, right? Even though it’s a basic and general question, there is an amazing amount of science behind it. We can break it down into some of the following groups: psychological, emotional, chemical, and yes, even the ‘psychosocial’ effects (See what I did there with the Slipknot reference?) that music provides in our daily lives. I’m one of those that are guilty of taking music for granted day in, and day out. We listen, we enjoy, and we continue with our days and nights, not giving much thought regarding the science of what’s behind all this wonderful music we pay for on our iTunes, Spotify, Apple Music, good old-fashioned vinyl, or any other source available. Within this article, I will share some of my opinions, cite peer-reviewed academic studies, and share openly available, referenced material from studies at major universities and research organizations. I think you’ll find the material interesting because almost all of us are here on Ultimate-Guitar for one reason: Music! Let’s move on to some of the more interesting topics and highlights, shall we?

I had mentioned Slipknot and ‘Psychosocial’ effects stemming from music, and I had a good reason for it. In case you aren’t quite sure of the full meaning of psychosocial, it is as follows: ‘Relating to the interrelation of social factors and individual thought and behavior.’ (Oxford, 2018) Some specific psychosocial factors are: stress, hostility, depression, hopelessness, etc. that can be directly associated to physical well-being. Think about the music you listen to. Also, think about the environment that surrounds you.

Do you choose your music based on the fact you simply enjoy how it sounds? Or, do you choose your music based on environmental, economic, and external factors?

I know, it sounds a bit odd to ask someone that, right? In my opinion, I think it’s a solid question. Are we choosing our favorite bands or musicians because we’re impacted by what’s going on around us? Being a child of the late 80’s and early 90’s myself- I think Megadeth and Slayer would be appropriate examples for this. Megadeth and Slayer consistently refer to government, religion, crime, politics, and death in their music. Yes, I know- ‘tell you something you don’t already know…’ It’s only for a point of reference that all of us can relate to. Either way, these are bands we may choose because of the psychosocial content they demonstrate. Believe me, I’m a huge Slayer fan and their writing is applicable to all the external factors we face in the world today. Additionally, the psychosocial effects of those factors can directly influence one’s mental, emotional, and physical state. The lyrics to ‘Repentless’ alone ring loud and clear about the insanity of our current state and how crazy our surroundings can be. It can also be a healthy outlet for our dismay and frustration with government, society, political issues, etc.

The psychological and emotional effects of music can be both positive and negative.

I’m sure you’re all well-aware of this. We choose to listen to our music of choice when we’re happy, content, angry, pissed off, depressed, elated, somber, excited, so on and so forth. The reasons are endless, really. But, have any of you ever dug into the science of it? Have any of you ever thought to yourself ‘Why do I listen to Black Sabbath? Paul Gilbert? Eric Clapton? Mazzy Star? Red Hot Chili Peppers? B.B. King? Slipknot? Leo Kottke?’ It’s a similar question to ‘Why am I doing this right now?’ There are many answers to this question of ‘why.’ According to the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. National Library of Medicine, a clear explanation is given, and the question is answered. Our enjoyment of music has dated back as far as 250,000 years. Yes, I’m serious- that long ago. Listening to music (or rhythmic sounds) and participating in music events has continuously evolved over time as well. Believe it or not, even Charles Darwin researched effects of music in some of his studies. In a nutshell- it comes down to: ‘relating to a feeling, situation, or event in our lives both past and present.’ (Zatorre, 2001) Makes a bit of sense, doesn’t it? Some of the answers provided by those being studied were the following: ‘Because it can lead my thoughts to somewhere else.’ ‘Because it helps me to better understand my thoughts and emotions.’ ‘Because it is therapy for my soul.’ ‘Because it gives me comfort.’ ‘Because it is a means to express myself.’ I don’t know about you, but I can certainly relate to those statements. Next time you throw on some headphones or crank the stereo, ask yourself that simple question: Why am I listening to this right now? The other interesting question to ask yourself is: ‘When do I decide to put on random or shuffled playlists, and why?’ If we’re choosing random selections, does it mean we’re just looking for noise? Or, do we choose specific playlists based on a certain mood or emotion? For me, I would concur with the ladder statement.

Last but not least- the chemical effects of music.

No, I’m not talking about adding in booze, drugs, or any other substance to augment the listening experience. I’m talking about the natural chemicals our brains produce when we listen to music. Number one (and in my opinion, the best one), Dopamine. If you’re not already aware, Dopamine is the ‘feel good’ neurochemical released by our brains. According to Psychology Today, music provides an abstract reward. What that means is that we get pleasure from something that is not tangible. Normally we get pleasure by eating good food, drinking alcohol or coffee, eating sugar-based foods, (and even sleeping) are considered tangible rewards. But… we cannot physically touch, taste, or smell the music. We can only hear it and often feel the vibration of it. ‘Just know that when you experience an emotion while listening to music, your ancient reward circuits are flooding your brain with a chemical designed to make you feel good.’ (Salimpoor, V.N, Benovoy, M, 2011) I think this is highly interesting, don’t you? The term ‘Sex, Drugs, & Rock ‘n Roll’ shouldn’t be overlooked here either. Digital Trends mentioned that studies consistently show music has the same effects on our brains as sex and drugs. What they’re saying is that Endorphins (our body’s natural opioid) are released while listening to music we enjoy. Again, extremely cool, don’t you think? Lastly, music also releases Serotonin into our brains. The benefit of this, is that we are provided the ability to relax and stay focused. One could argue that it depends on the ‘type’ of music one chooses though. Some music motivates us, pumps us up, or gives us a physical edge to perform hard work. Other music can lull us to sleep or assist us in focusing on studies or an intricate project.

There you have it, some interesting facts and studies about the Physiological effects of music on our minds, bodies, overall health, and potential benefits to simply feeling good.