Music for Life – 12 Ways Music Benefits Emotional Health

Updated: May 15, 2019



In our previous Music for Life posts, we explored ways that music benefits students physically and intellectually (or academically.) This post we focus on a dozen ways that music encourages wellbeing. As wellness is holistic and intellectual, physical, and emotional health is integrated there is a lot of cross over between the different benefits of music study. See the previous posts, Music for Life ­–15 Ways Music Benefits Intellectual Health and Music for Life – 10 Ways Music Benefits Physical Health to get a fuller picture of ways that music study enriches the lives of those who study it. Remember, it’s never too late to begin music practice! These benefits are for children as well as adult learners, and even seniors benefit from learning music.

1. Increased Optimism – Engaging in musical activities has been shown to lead to a more optimistic, friendly, calm and overall positive outlook.

2. Induces A Meditative State or FLOW State – Music is unique in that it’s a “temporal art” meaning in takes place over time. While you may be able to glance at a painting or speed read a poem, you must allow music to enfold over time to truly appreciate it. The performer and the listener must allow themselves to enter into a “flow” state. This means that the listener or player is in a state of mind where he or she is totally immersed in focus, full-involvement and enjoyment in the process of music.

“Music is the literature of the heart; it commences where speech ends.” – Alphonse de Lamartine

3. Lowers Levels of Depression – Exposure to and participation to music has been shown to lower the production of cortisol, the stress hormone. The genre or style of the music does not matter as long as the individual enjoys the musical experience.

4. Decreases Levels of Anxiety – As we discovered earlier, music is a temporal art. When we become anxious we are living in “what ifs.” When we engage in musical activities, we are living in the “now.” Once we enter this attitude, our anxiety level will drop.

5. Better Emotional Understanding – Music has been shown to increase our ability to empathize with others. We are able to see the world through another person’s eyes when we understand their music. We are also better able to understand our own emotions through music. Historically, the arts are a means by which we explore our intrapersonal (within) and interpersonal (with others) relationships.

"Music is very powerful; it crashes down walls….it can knock down barriers quicker than any UN meeting, any NATO meeting. That's why rock and roll has been so powerful. I watched a band from Liverpool change the world. As far as I'm concerned, what else has done that?” – Jenny Boyd

6. Increased Coping Skills and More Resiliency ­– Music study encourages students to work towards a goal over time. Inevitably, this leads to achieving successes and finding themselves at disappointing failures. However, failing and learning to learn from failure leads to resiliency. Positive Psychology researchers have found that resiliency is the single most important factor in an individual’s eventual success. Those who meet their goals and succeed are not merely lucky or better than those who do not, they are those to learn how to stick to it until the end.

7. Better Emotional Memory – Music evokes memory. When we hear a song, we are taken back to the place where we first heard that song. Musicians have been shown to have more grey matter in the portion of the frontal cortex known to accommodate the neural networks that are involved in memory processes. Music activates the entire limbic system which controls memory and how we process emotions.

8. More Compassion – With better the emotional memory and in depth emotional understanding, it makes sense that those who understand music have a deeper understanding of what it means to be compassionate.

“Music is one of the most powerful things the world has to offer. No matter what race or religion or nationality or sexual orientation or gender that you are, it has the power to unite us.” ­– Stephanie "Lady Gaga" Germanotta

9. Better Sleep – Music has been shown to calm our parasympathetic system. Older adults who listen to music have been found to fall asleep faster and for longer periods of time. The best choices are pieces which fall between 60 – 80 bpm. For best results, it is suggested that the sleeper listen to 45 minutes of music prior to going to bed.

10. Better Ability to Communicate Emotions – Music allows us a means to express the inexpressible. Music allows us to deal with abstract thinking. Music gives us the ability to “talk” to and with the irrational parts of us. When we create our own music, we are expresses the inexpressible within us; and when we listen to the music of other’s, we vicariously experience their emotions.

“To be human is to be capable of abstract thinking, of conceptualization, conscious and unconscious. We imagine traveling to the moon on an abstract plane, then we bring it into being. This capacity is both an outgrowth and a tool of our evolution. As defined as music can try to be, it is still fundamentally abstract. More than allowing us to speak in-between-the-lines, perhaps music is representing our capacity for abstract imagining of an environmental condition. Maybe it is echoing environmental cues that have been with us throughout our evolution.” – Joel Douek

11. More Confidence in Self-Expression – Music allows, us as students and music creators, to discover our own voices. When we create music and we are allowed to express ourselves, we grow in our confidence. The more we learn about the world of music, the wider that world becomes to us.


“I would rather write 10,000 notes than a single letter of the alphabet.” ― Ludwig van Beethoven

12. Our holistic nature. ­– Music reveals our holistic nature and just how integrated we are! As we have seen, music shows us that our brains, bodies and emotions are fundamentally intertwined. As our brains perceive music, our bodies react and our emotions respond.

“Music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life bringing peace, abolishing strife.” – Kahlil Gibran

Even though there are many reasons, from health to career to recreation, that you or your child may decide to begin studying music. The most important reason to study music is for music itself. It gives you a whole unique, yet universal language where you are able to communicate with the entire universe. Sing us your song and play us your tune because only you can! Who knows how far you or your child will go with music, your journey is yours and it starts with that first note.

Further Reading:

Boyd, Jenny, Musicians in Tune: 75 Contemporary Musicians Discuss the Creative Process. Wichita, KS: Fireside Publishing, 1992.

Douek, Joel, Music and Emotion: A Composer’s Perspective. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3832887/, (accessed 21 March 2018.)

Healthy Children. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/emotional-wellness/Pages/Music-and-Mood.aspx, (accessed 21 March 2018.)

Juslin, Patrik N., What Does Music Express? Basic Emotions and Beyond., https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3764399/, (accessed 21 March 2018.)

Lutz, J., Music, Memory and Emotion. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2776393/, (accessed 21 March 2018.)

Sleep & Music. https://sleep.org/articles/sleep-music/, (accessed 21 March 2018.)

#musicandbrain #emotions #wellness #happiness #resiliency #positivepsychology

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