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Music Therapy: How It Affects Emotions

Music is always somewhere in our daily life, sometimes hidden or sometimes completely exposed. Some listen to music as entertainment, some play instruments, some sing, some just barely hear sounds of music around them once in a while, and finally the others… well, there is technically no “others” other than the ones listed. Whoever has listened to music (which means everyone,) has gone through something called music therapy, happy or not. Music therapy is not even close to being a bad thing to have gone through though, it has a vast variety of helpful qualities.

One of the main benefits of music therapy is the way it can affect one’s emotions. It can take away stress, make people happy or calmer and an ocean full more. This emotional impact of music is the pending result of why scientists think people enjoy listening to it. Following that, it may not seem like it, but listening to music is really beneficial for anyone’s mental health especially if you’re stressed or depressed.

For starters, you may be wondering, what in the world is “music therapy?” There are many very wordly definitions to what music therapy means but here is a friendlier response: music therapy is the use of music to help groups or individuals develop socially, mentally, physically, etc. It includes activities such as learning to play an instrument, listening to music, and writing music, all of which is covered by the label: “The Study of Music.” Music therapy is commonly used on people with disabilities, injuries, illness and/or diseases (such as Alzheimer’s disease) to improve their well-being. Specifically, music therapy is used to treat the elderly that have  mental health needs, developmental and learning disabilities, aging conditions, and brain injuries. Now, you have a good amount of information under the definition of “music therapy” , what it is and what it helps. 

One of the most important qualities to music therapy is how music affects someone’s emotions and feelings. Music can even change a person’s perspective! An example of how music affects emotions in the real world always happens in sports events, in particular, the athletes. Professional swimmers, basketball players, football players, soccer players, etc. all listen to music before their competition, race, or event. Normally they will listen to music with a very fast tempo and an energetic style  to cheer themselves up or get their heartrate up. None of them will listen to mellow, moody music or classical music before an intense event! They might listen to rock, rap, metal, etc. Sometimes you even might see them dancing to the music or see them bob their heads up and down to the beat! Another example of a real-world situation where music affects emotions is when someone is reading a book. A particular setting could be a person reading a book on a couch next to a burning fireplace in PJ’s at night. In that situation, the person would probably listen to classical or very light types of music instead of heavy metals. They would do that because they are not in the mood to get hyper and if they do put on rock music, I guarantee that they will not get sleepy easily that night! Now that you have learned the situations in the real world where music affects emotions, let’s jump into the scientific research behind this.

The enjoyment of music is discovered to affect the same part of the body as other forms of pleasure such as the happiness you feel thinking about your favorite foods and video games. This is due to a specific neurotransmitter called dopamine which plays a role affecting our feelings, specifically how/when we feel pleasure. This is one factor that shows that it would make sense if music could change someone’s emotions because if someone saw their favorite food on the table, they would most likely be happy instead of upset. Following that, memories are one of the biggest reasons why music can reshape your emotions. This is because musical memory can stay in someone’s memory for longer periods of time than other memories so there is a greater impact. This is because listening to music triggers a vast majority of someone’s brain making connections in the brain and also making associations with other things. Music also sometimes makes you do certain actions such as tapping your foot to the beat and actions as well affects emotions. The main reason that music affects emotions is because listeners mimic the feelings that the music brings around. Happy music makes you happy, sad music makes you sad, exciting music makes you excited, etc. The way music affects mood also affects time perception. Studies show that if you listen to calm, slow tempo music, your attention to the time that is going by lessens and to your perception, time is speeding up. This shows that music can literally take attention away and focus on the tune of the sound. This uncovers why music connects to someone’s emotions through science.

All in all, music can change your emotions, moods, and feelings dramatically. To wrap it up, music’s connection to someone’s mood exists because of addictive behaviors, which strengthens your emotional processing system. It is memorable, connects with your actions, and affects time perception. Everybody has listened to music and therefore have technically gone through music therapy. Most people find themselves observing how music affects emotions just like how I did before and I hope you will or have already realized for yourself. Keep in mind that how music affects mood is not the only quality under the umbrella of “music therapy,” much more lies underneath. Now I know some things about you; you have just read this article, you are going to have an interaction with music soon, and you are willing to have music around you often which is all very good. 

Hope you actually learned something, 

James Tong

Oclef Student – The Power of Music

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