Music has been an integral part of human experience throughout history, from the drumbeats of our ancient ancestors to the unlimited streaming services available today. Researchers have long been fascinated by the potential therapeutic and mood-boosting benefits of music. Recent studies have shown that music can have a profound impact on our mood, with even sad music having the ability to lift our spirits. In this article, we delve into the findings of various research studies to uncover the effects of music on mood and well-being.
The Pleasure and Comfort of Sad Music
Contrary to what one might expect, recent research conducted by Durham University in the United Kingdom and the University of Jyväskylä in Finland, published in PLOS ONE, has revealed that even sad music brings most listeners pleasure and comfort. The study involved three surveys conducted in the United Kingdom and Finland, with over 2,400 participants. The majority of experiences reported by the participants were positive, shedding light on how people use music to regulate their mood and find comfort and enjoyment. However, it’s important to note that for some individuals, sad music can evoke negative feelings of profound grief.
Preference for Sad Music during Interpersonal Loss
Another study published in the Journal of Consumer Research suggests that people tend to prefer sad music when they are going through a deep interpersonal loss, such as the end of a relationship. The researchers propose that sad music acts as a substitute for the lost relationship, providing a sense of empathy and understanding. Similar to having an empathic friend who truly comprehends one’s emotions, sad music can serve as a source of solace during challenging times.
The Joyful Effects of Upbeat Music
On the other end of the spectrum, research has also focused on the positive effects of upbeat music on mood. A study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that listening to upbeat music can improve mood and enhance happiness within just two weeks. The study participants were instructed to try to improve their mood, and it was observed that listening to uplifting music had a greater impact on their well-being compared to listening to sadder tunes. The lead author of the study, Yuna Ferguson, highlighted the broader benefits of a happier mood, including improved physical health, higher income, and greater relationship satisfaction.
Music as a Therapeutic Tool
The findings of these studies align with the broader field of music therapy. Music therapy programs, as reported by the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), are designed to achieve various goals such as stress management, memory enhancement, and pain alleviation. It may come as a surprise, but research has shown a clear link between music and pain management. A review published in The Lancet revealed that patients who listened to music before, during, or after surgery experienced less pain and anxiety compared to those who did not listen to music. The study also found that the patients who were allowed to choose their own music required less pain medication. This non-invasive, cost-effective intervention should be made available to all individuals undergoing surgery.
In addition to pain management, music therapy has shown promise in treating mood disorders associated with neurological conditions like Parkinson’s disease, dementia, stroke, and multiple sclerosis. A review published in the World Journal of Psychiatry concluded that music therapy can be an effective treatment to reduce depression and anxiety and improve mood, self-esteem, and quality of life in these populations. Importantly, no negative side effects were reported in any of the trials, highlighting music therapy as a low-risk treatment option.
The Power of Creating Music
While listening to music has its benefits, actively engaging in creating music can also serve as a therapeutic tool. An orchestra specifically designed for individuals with dementia has been shown to improve their mood and boost self-confidence. The Bournemouth University Dementia Institute (BUDI) in the U.K. conducted a project involving eight people with dementia, seven caregivers, students, and professional musicians. The project aimed to demonstrate that individuals with dementia can still learn new skills and experience enjoyment. The orchestra project has not only enhanced the lives of the participants but also challenged negative perceptions surrounding dementia. Collaborative music creation has proven to be a powerful avenue for fostering communication skills, friendships, and support among the participants.
From the emotional impact of sad music to the uplifting effects of upbeat melodies, music has a remarkable influence on our mood and well-being. Research continues to uncover the therapeutic potential of music, both in passive listening and active creation. Music therapy has shown promise in managing stress, enhancing memory, alleviating pain, and improving mood disorders associated with neurological conditions. As we continue to explore the intricate relationship between music and the human mind, it is evident that music has the power to heal, uplift, and connect us on a profound level.