We all use music – to entertain us, fill in time, or as a background to our lives. It is well-known that music can have a real and profound effect on us, and on plants and animals, too. You may also know, or might guess, that music is something we can use to affect our emotions and mood. We don’t have to have a special understanding of music for this, but it is worth learning a little about why and how it works so that we can use music – and sound – to improve our mood and even address emotional issues.
So, how exactly does music affect mood? Essentially, the brain responds to any external stimulus immediately. A stimulus like sound or music will instantly stimulate the part of the brain that produces the dopamine hormone. This is the hormone that affects emotional behavior and mood. The influence of music is both behavioral and neural. This means that music not only affects mood but also affects something we can’t control ourselves.
Of course, if we know how that music can affect our mood, then we can choose what kind of music to listen to. If you are feeling anxious, listen to calming and peaceful music. Or something that will lift your spirits and give positive energy. If you need to focus or be creative, then the right music may provide this lift. Experiment a little to work out how different types of music affect you as an individual.
Early on, anxiety was a big problem and there were associated sleep issues. My new environment was not exactly quiet either, so it was doubly difficult to drift off. I found that Youtube had many 8 hour or longer videos with relaxation-type music, white noise from nature (rain, waves etc), and even compositions with a specific sound frequency were so helpful. I often listened to 528Hz. There is a some great information on these sites: https://www.naturehealingsociety.com/articles/solfeggio/ and here: https://meditativemind.org/benefits-of-music-based-on-7-solfeggio-frequencies/ The second site includes ‘Sleep Music’ with specific tones of sound to help with and promote various aspects of body and mind health.
Healing with music
Research shows that music boosts the production of dopamine, which is responsible for our ‘good moods’. When we do something we enjoy, then levels increase. Music can influence the production of this hormone, as well. One study confirms that listening to music you enjoy activates the production of this hormone in the brain. So, listening to music can cheer you up pretty quickly. It seems that if you exercise or play sport along with music then there is a doubling of this positive effect. I certainly find that walking or running with music gives me a lot of positive energy. Do you find this as well?
Music improves sleep by calming the autonomic nervous system which is responsible for controlling our body’s automatic or unconscious processes.So, breathing becomes slower, heart rate more stable, and reduces blood pressure. There are many kinds of music on YouTube which can help you feel peaceful and sleep more easily. I like to use sounds of nature: ocean waves, waterfalls, falling rain.
Music to relax. This is certainly an effective (and enjoyable!) way to reduce stress and anxiety. A slower tempo or instrumental music is what to listen to for calming. This is because levels of cortisol are reduced. Cortisol is the body’s stress hormone, and in trying to control stress, the right music – perhaps in the morning or at the end of the day can help return levels to normal. Experiments and research have verified this. (See the Research links below). But, not all types of music are suitable for this purpose. Classical music is believed to have especially beneficial effects in reducing blood cortisol and the overall relaxation of body and mind.
‘Music is an art form. It expresses ideas and emotions in melody and rhythm, tone and harmony. Music is also a way of feeling. And it can be used as a way of healing, too.’ – ajh
Healing with voice
The voice is also a type of sound therapy which may be used to heal. The vibrations of the human voice are used in these therapies to go beyond feelings of relaxation and actually promote healing. Sound therapists will often use a range of instruments, like tuning forks or singing bowls. But, some experts say there is nothing more powerful than the human voice to heal and even transform.
The human voice is certainly powerful and may even be the ultimate healing instrument. Song and chanting have long been used in healing rituals traced to ancient teachings in Europe, Asia and the Americas. Certain practices, such as overtone chanting in Central Asia have been shown to have a therapeutic effect.
In Qigong, there are 5 healing sounds. These are related to the five elements which make up the body and the natural world with each element having a corresponding organ, colour, sound and season. By making a specific sound in an intentional way, it is intended to bring that element into balance.
Using the voice as a complementary healing modality is a relatively new field today, supported by these ancient traditions, but also by new understandings in the field of energy medicine. It has been shown that the voice is a vibrational tool that complements the natural healing process and so is a very useful (and non-invasive tool) to maintain and restore well-being.
‘Healing with the voice’ might be separated in to 2 areas – by using your own voice in various ways, and by listening to or experiencing the voice of someone else. I find this fascinating, because from personal experience, it has been extremely impactful.
For me personally, music has helped to bring out emotions during stressful or triggering times in isolation and lock-down. It was one of the ways I was able to pull out strong feelings – of fear, helplessness, grief – and resolve them. The effect of music is such an interesting topic. Work being done by psychologists and other researchers in explaining the effects that can be achieved with music is something I’d like to explore further.
As a therapy, music – and voice – has the power to heal and transform. It is something we can all use to support our wellness and well-being.
Articles & Research: