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Music and Mental Health

Have you ever heard a song that made you feel a certain way? A song that made you feel better, or helped you to sit with a particular emotion? Songs can certainly change how we feel, but it can also be integrated into a wellbeing strategy. Just take this quote from Bob Marley for example:


“One good thing about music, is when it hits you, you feel no pain.”


Music has been proven to be an excellent coping mechanism for stress, anxiety and depression. It can also be used in mindfulness practice.


How does music effect my mental health?


  • Well, to start with, listening to the right kind of music can elevate your current mood and motivate you. For example, listening to an upbeat playlist while working out at the gym may motivate you to work harder. Researchers found that dopamine levels were 9% higher when people listened to music they enjoyed.
  • The opposite of this is also true. Music can encourage relaxation. Putting some headphones in and just listening to the music can be extremely cathartic! For this reason it’s also hugely beneficial with helping combat insomnia. You can even purchase headphones specifically designed for sleeping!
  • It can also help improve cognitive performance. It’s a great way to study for a reason  – putting on some instrumental music whilst studying for a test can help you to remember information better and help you to focus.
  • Listening to music has been proven to help relieve anxiety and depression. For this reason, music is often a incorporated into treatment strategies for those suffering from Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and depression. The type of music played is also important here – classical or instrumental music are particularly helpful.
  • It can be a stress reliever – studies have shown that those who play an instrument have stronger immune systems than those who don’t. What better reason to finally start learning the guitar like you’ve wanted to for years?


How can I use music for my mental health?

  • Here at Psychology Wales, we often discuss using music as part of as set of distress tolerance strategies and creating playlists for different situations and moods.  For example sometimes a playlist of happy motivating songs can help overcome a low mood or lack of motivation and other times sitting with a difficult emotion can be facilitated by having a soothing playlist.
  • Another great way to use music for your mental health is perhaps trying to use it as a creative outlet. Do you feel as though no song fully encapsulates how you feel? You could try writing your own! Don’t worry about how it sounds, ultimately what’s important is how it makes you feel.
  • It can help you connect with others, so why not share your playlist with a close friend and bond over the music?


Using Music as a Mindfulness Practice


Find somewhere comfy and put some music on for a few minutes. Allow yourself to be fully immersed in the song. Maybe choose to follow one instrument throughout the piece and then listen again to the piece but shift your focus to a different instrument, or maybe notice the emotions or thoughts that are elicited by the piece.

This practice could be integrated into your routine before going to bed, mindfully listening to music can be a great way to increase your mindfulness practice!

Do you listen to music for your mental health? What’s your favourite song to help elevate your mood?

For more information about Mindfulness practices, check out our Mindfulness courses:

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Salimpoor, Valorie N, et al. “Anatomically Distinct Dopamine Release during Anticipation and Experience of Peak Emotion to Music.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 9 Jan. 2011, www.nature.com/articles/nn.2726.


Cockerton, Tracey, et al. “Cognitive Test Performance and Background Music.” Perceptual and Motor Skills, vol. 85, no. 3_suppl, 1997, pp. 1435–1438., doi:10.2466/pms.1997.85.3f.1435.


“Playing a Musical Instrument Can Improve Health and Wellbeing.” Music Industries Association, 14 Mar. 2017, www.mia.org.uk/2017/03/playing-a-musical-instrument-can-improve-health-and-wellbeing/.



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