Since I started ballet at 3 years old, I have experienced the effects of music on my moods. Some of my fondest early memories are dancing to Pachelbel’s Canon in D major. A few years ago I really made an effort to include music in my daily life. I started to play music in my car, when I exercised, worked on the computer, got ready for the day, or cooking, cleaning my apartment and especially doing any kind of boring chore! I can tell you, hands down it has definitely boosted my moods.
Because I spend a good part of my life teaching group exercise and personal training, I am intimate with the effects of different music styles on how people move. I have clients that come to me tired, depressed, overworked and as soon as I put on some music, I can see them shift right before my eyes.
Music changes how we see the world
Music not only affects our moods, it can change how we perceive the world according to research from the University of Groningen. This study also correlated types of music with the ability to expect and seek out happy feelings. Typically we think of moods as the result of what happens to us, a sort of top down approach to mood. But this study showed that it works both ways, you can improve your mood first and then expect and attract positive experiences afterwards in a virtuous cycle.
Science agrees that music changes moods
In a 2013 study in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that people who listened to upbeat music could improve their moods and boost their happiness in just two weeks. A happier mood brings benefits beyond feeling good, it has been linked to better physical health, higher income and greater relationship satisfaction.
Creating music has very similar benefits for mood and those benefits can go beyond the intangible to positive physical changes in your brain and nervous system that persist for a very long time. A review in the World Journal of Psychiatry found that music therapy can help with mood disorders stemming from neurological conditions like Parkinson’s disease, dementia, multiple sclerosis and even strokes.
Music is therapy
The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) reports that music therapy programs can be designed to achieve goals such as stress reduction, alleviate pain, enhance memory, improve communication, and promote physical rehabilitation. “Music is a non-invasive, safe, cheap intervention that should be available to everyone undergoing surgery,” lead study author Catherine Meads, Ph.D., of Brunel University in the United Kingdom, recommended in a press release.
Music inspires movement
Dr. Kelly McGonigal has a trick to get yourself out of it: MUSIC. Music is an invitation to move – even in states of grief or depression. She suggests creating a playlist of music that puts you in a better mood. When listening to it, one of the first things you’ll be compelled to do is move. Your body will physically crave movement once your brain registers this music. It doesn’t matter if you’re dancing or stretching or running up and down a flight of stairs – a three-minute burst of movement will initiate a mood reset and will allow you to face whatever worries you have from a bigger perspective. Plus, it’ll prepare you to approach your next challenge with a greater sense of optimism.
So, if you’re experiencing grief, listen to music. Dance. You’ll feel better. If you’re experiencing stress, listen to it. Do what your brain is asking you to do because it’s recognized something you care about is at stake. Join me in any class, and you’ll get a taste of music I like for getting in a better mood. For the potent mood boosting combo of music and dance, get in one of my Zumba classes and double up on the positivity!