You can probably identify with the idea that music can make you feel better.
It’s pretty natural for us as human beings to seek out music for joy and pleasure and beauty. But why exactly does music feel so good?
Music connects us to others.
Not only is music a uniquely human experience, but it is also a communal experience. For generations upon generations, before iPods and TVs and even electricity, people gathered to make music together, to celebrate, to mourn, to commemorate, and to pray. Even now, when you’re listening to a song through your very own headphones, you’re connected to the people who created the music and others who experience the same recordings you do. People crave connection to others, and music helps us to connect.
Music can be a catalyst for emotions.
If you’ve ever put on a carefully-selected playlist to rev up your energy to tackle household chores or to set the mood for a romantic evening, you know what this one means. We’ve always known on a human level that music and emotions are closely connected, and now we even have neurological research to show us exactly that. By intentionally choosing music to match where you want to be, you can help yourself get to that desired mood.
Music can be a container for emotions.
Even as music can help us to get to a desired mood state, it can also go a long way in helping us to honor and cope with difficult feelings. All of us experience fear and anger and grief and confusion at one time or another, and sometimes it can seem almost impossible to get through those difficult feelings. At the same time, ignoring or stuffing those feelings away can lead to much bigger problems. Instead, you can choose a song that expresses the full depth of your feelings, listen with intention, and allow that song to hold all that you are feeling. Your music then becomes a container for your emotions, honoring all that you feel while allowing you to do what you need to do in your day-to-day life.
Music helps us relax.
Besides using music to relax on an emotional level, by getting you to a happier or calmer frame of mind, you can use music to help your body to relax on a physical level. Through the process of entrainment, your body’s rhythms will want to match the dominant rhythms in your environment. So, choosing steady music around 60 beats per minute will help you slow your heartbeat to a resting rate, deepen your breath, and turn on the “rest and digest” part of your nervous system. Using slow and steady music will help your body relax. (You can read more about that process here.)
Music gets us moving.
Finally, just as music can help your body to slow down, it can help you ramp up, too. The same process of entrainment that helps you relax to slow and steady music makes you want to move your body to upbeat, rhythmic music. Believe it or not, this actually make exercise seem easier. And while we adults often have to frame our intentional body moving as “exercise,” with music, you can really explore your playful side, too. Okay, let’s just call it what it is: Music helps you dance. And dancing feels awesome. (Read more about choosing music to support movement here.)
How does music make a difference in your life? What songs help you to relax or get moving or to deal with difficult emotions? Leave your comments below!