May 25, 2021 3 min read

How Listening to Music Can Have Psychological Benefits

Listening to music can be entertaining, and some research suggests that it might even make you healthier. Music can be a source of pleasure and contentment, but there are many other psychological benefits as well. Music can relax the mind, sharpen focus, improve memory and mood.

The notion that music can influence your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors probably does not come as much of a surprise. If you've ever felt pumped up while listening to your favorite fast-paced rock anthem or been moved to tears by a tender live performance, then you easily understand the power of music to impact moods and even inspire action.

The psychological effects of music can be powerful and wide-ranging. Music therapy is an intervention sometimes used to promote emotional health, help patients cope with stress, and boost psychological well-being. Some research even suggests that your taste in music can provide insight into different aspects of your personality.

Music Can Improve Cognitive Performance

Research suggests that background music, or music that is played while the listener is primarily focused on another activity, can improve performance on cognitive tasks in older adults. One study found that playing more upbeat music led to improvements in processing speed, while both upbeat and downbeat music led to benefits in memory.

So the next time you are working on a task, consider turning on a little music in the background if you are looking for a boost in your mental performance. Consider choosing instrumental tracks rather than those with complex lyrics, which might end up being more distracting.

Music Can Reduce Stress

It has long been suggested that music can help reduce or manage stress. Consider the trend centered on meditative music created to soothe the mind and inducing relaxation. Fortunately, this is one trend supported by research. Listening to music can be an effective way to cope with stress.

In one 2013 study, participants took part in one of three conditions before being exposed to a stressor and then taking a psychosocial stress test. Some participants listened to relaxing music, others listened to the sound of rippling water, and the rest received no auditory stimulation.

The results suggested that listening to music had an impact on the human stress response, particularly the autonomic nervous system. Those who had listened to music tended to recover more quickly following a stressor.

 

Music Can Improve Your Memory

Lots of students enjoy listening to music while they study, but is that such a great idea? Some feel like listening to their favorite music as they study improves memory, while others contend that it simply serves as a pleasant distraction.

Research suggests that it may help. But it depends upon a variety of factors, including the type of music, the listener's enjoyment of that music, and even how musically well-trained the listener may be. In one study, musically naive students learned better when listening to positive music, possibly because these songs elicited more positive emotions without interfering with memory formation.

However, musically trained students tended to perform better on learning tests when they listened to neutral music, possibly because this type of music was less distracting and easier to ignore. If you tend to find yourself distracted by music, you may be better off learning in silence or with neutral tracks playing in the background.

Another studyfound that participants learning a new language showed improvement in their knowledge and abilities when they practiced singing new words and phrases versus just regular speaking or rhythmic speaking.

 

Music May Help You Sleep Better

Insomnia is a serious problem that affects people of all age groups. While there are many approaches to treating this problem, research has demonstrated that listening to relaxing classical music can be a safe, effective, and affordable remedy.​

In a study looking at college students, participants listened to classical music, an audiobook, or nothing at all at bedtime for three weeks. Researchers assessed sleep quality both before and after the intervention.

The study found that participants who had listened to music had significantly better sleep quality than those who had listened to the audiobook or received no intervention.

 

Music May Reduce Symptoms of Depression

Researchers have also found that music therapy can be a safe and effective treatment for a variety of disorders, including depression. One study found that music therapy was a safe, low-risk way to reduce depression and anxiety in patients suffering from neurological conditions such as dementia, stroke, and Parkinson's disease.

While music can certainly have an impact on mood, the type of music is also important. Classical and meditation music offer the greatest mood-boosting benefits, while heavy metal and techno music are ineffective and even detrimental.


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