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How music impacts our mental health

By Johanna Gatnitnit

Few people may recognize how closely connected art and medicine are. The brain is the centre of operation for our body, music activates many regions of our brain than nearly any other human activity. They give the example of how the basal ganglion coordinates movement and the hippocampus functions our memories and emotions. The diseases, Parkinson's and Alzheimer’s target these regions which cause movement disorder and memory loss. The question is, can music help?

Holzmueller (2022) found that neuroimaging finds that “Music is strongly connected to reward systems in our brain. This musical pathway to pleasure/emotion may help understand and temper the emotional and physical responses linked to addiction.” (pg. 280). Whether someone is listening, singing, dancing, or playing an instrument, music continues to have positive effects on them. For hospitalised patients enduring surgery or painful procedures, the article finds that music reduces pain scores, pain medication intake, anxiety, blood pressure, heart rate, relaxation, and mood. Group singing lessons, which have enhanced voice volume, clarity, and quality of life, serve as an illustration of this. For patients with Parkinson disease, participation in West African drum circle lessons has greatly improved these traits as well as mobility. When it comes to walking, the application of rhythmic signals helps decrease gait issues, including the freezing of movement that is frequently observed with Parkinson disease. The Center for Music & Medicine, which has begun providing free drumming lessons in 2021, and the ParkinSonics, whose participants in the Parkinson's trial of group singing join a community-based singing group, are two organisations that contribute to this cause.

Aside from movement, Holzmueller (2022) says that music also benefits people with dementia. Because of music, it helps reduce disruptive behaviour and depressive symptoms, it helps improve some cognitive function too. When all music-related activities cease, the author claims that the progress brought about by these music-based interventions will have a possibility of going backwards. However, this result is very comparable to taking a chronic disease drug. The positive aspect of music, according to the report, is that it is frequently "less expensive with minimal or no negative effects." Its basic argument is that music unites us all in some way that causes people to reflect on happy memories or to experience a sense of community. The idea of using music to enhance mental health is not new, but neuroimaging studies now enable neurologists and researchers to visualise and quantify these effects. The article's conclusion is "Sometimes taking a pill is not the best medicine," according to the author.

How Music Affects Cognitive Skills and Mental Health in Children

In their 2022 article, Akombo states that music has played an important role in schools for almost two centuries. For example, France music education was introduced to public schools and the National Academy of Music was created in Paris. The concept was that music might cultivate uplifting feelings, eliminate animosity, and advance health through harmony. Music therapy is a discipline that first emerged during the mid-twentieth century. It served two main purposes: one that was social and educational, and the other that was psychologically regulating (Arveiller, 1980, as cited in Akombo, 2022) (Lecourt, 1992, as cited in Akombo 2022). The author finds that music played a major part in calming restless students and stimulating the apathetic ones through the use of mood and behaviour regulation. These goals were mostly formed while patients and students were listening to concert music. Music lessons were provided to hospital patients and students arranged their own musical events in hospitals (Arveiller, 1980, as cited in Akombo, 2022) (Lecourt, 1992, as cited in Akombo 2022). Akombo (2022) says that music has long been used to produce therapeutic physiological and psychological results. Through many historical and philosophical debates on the effectiveness of using music as a healing device, scientists had proposed many theories about the relativism of pain and anxiety, and how music can be a useful tool in their alleviation (Tong, 2003, as cited in Akombo, 2022).

Akombo (2022) in their studies found that the effects of anxiety on children have become a national concern. Children who experience anxiety may become emotionally and physically ill. Children often have physical issues including anxiety-related headaches. Concerns range from students in classes suffering from chronic stress or living in a constant state of anger or rage. Therefore, music plays a major role in helping students to lower their anxieties in various situations. The author quotes Giles (1990) “It is this group that is most prevalent in the classroom, and it is this group that could be helped by music” (pg. 141). They find that music teachers can utilise the healing powers of music in the classroom to help the students who need to reduce stress in their lives. According to their sample research results, music has a beneficial impact on children's overall wellness. Through creative teaching strategies, such as asking kids questions that go beyond their vocabulary while playing songs like "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Stars," Children will start handclapping, stomping their feet, and making beats to accompany the music. As a result, this study investigates how music influences elementary school children's cognition and aesthetics.

Akombo (2022) also finds that from research, listening to certain music with a repetitive rhythm for at least ten seconds can lead to a decrease in blood pressure and reduced heart rate. For example, the Native American Lullaby used in calming children to sleep. Thus, a crucial factor in assisting students in reducing their anxiety is music. With the use of music programmes like choir, band orchestra, and other group ensembles, stress-related issues including teenage suicide, teenage pregnancies, delinquency, violence in schools, and physical and sexual abuse of children can be decreased. These issues are primarily caused by mental anxiety. In conclusion, music benefits children's mental health as well as their physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing.

The Effect of Art and Music on Stress and Anxiety Levels in Adolescents

Aggarwal (2021) discusses how music and art therapy have long been believed to have a significant and quantifiable healing impact on the human psyche. Due to the increasing number of art education programs and the developmental psychology currents that support it, art therapy has quickly emerged as a recognized discipline. It is regarded as a practice that encompasses various aspects of modern psychotherapy, such as narrative therapy and behaviourism. Associations such as the AMTA (American Music Therapy Association) also sees music therapy as a tool to fostering individual’s wellbeing, stress management, pain relief, cognitive enhancement, improved communication, and physical rehabilitation. Through the use of music and art, students can gain a deeper understanding of their trauma and develop a stronger sense of resilience. (Payne, Doty et. Al, 2018, as cited in Aggarwal 2021) This type of therapy can also help them deal with various psychological and physiological issues. Aggarwal (2021) says that “Adolescence itself is a very challenging time for teenagers and this is the time they are most prone to stress and anxiety as well as depression.” In their research, they found a study done by Sophie Bethune (2014) how teen stress rivals that of adults. 31% reported feeling overwhelmed, 36% were fatigued, 30% experienced emotions of sorrow and only 42% reported to have not done anything to minimise anxiety. Thus, Music has the same impact on the brain as the scents of lavender and chamomile, which releases “feel-good” hormones like dopamine (Payne, Doty et. Al, 2018, as cited in Aggarwal 2021). Findings in 2011 research, commissioned by academics Salimpoor and Zatorre from McGill University, indicate that people who listen to music have increased levels of dopamine produced in the brain, therefore music has a significant impact on creating a relaxed mood. According to research, teens may communicate their feelings through art, which also helps them convey their thoughts in drawings. This makes art a useful and effective means of helping them deal with stress (Schrader, 2011, as cited in Aggarwal, 2021). This is the same for depression, anxiety, PTSD, fears and phobias, as well as physical arousal such as heart rate, high blood pressure, and hormonal levels can have the same benefit from art therapy and music approaches (Spruit & van Hooren, 2019, as cited in Aggarwal 2021). The overall aim of this journal said by Aggarwal 2021 “aims to identify the extent to which art and music helps in reducing stress levels.” (pg. 1)

Music Listening and Emotion Regulation: Young People’s Perspectives on Strategies, Outcomes, and Intervening Factors

In Garrido, Du Toit et al. (2022) research, their study is to investigate the emotion-regulation strategies that young people use when listening to music and the factors that influence the effectiveness of these strategies. Emotion-regulation is defined as the cognitive process in which individuals use for regulating their emotions and expressions (Gross, 1998, as cited in Garrido, Du Toit et al., 2022) which can be used as an adaptive strategy to reduce difficult emotion and lessen pathogenesis of depression. The methods that teenagers use to control their emotional states are crucial to their wellbeing. They also contribute to the emergence of emotion-regulation disorders including depression and anxiety, which are among the world's most significant contributors to adolescent illness and disability. Music is a key resource that people of all ages turn to during psychological distress. Although, the relationship between the two stimuli is complex.

Under the results of Sadness or Depression, there was a consistent theme of mood-matching music to get over feelings and to also acknowledge feelings that are sad or depressed. Lyrics that are seen meaningful, connecting to the listener’s emotions were believed to be more helpful for these goals, achieving the feeling of not being alone. Participants have agreed that sad music was preferable in these types of situations rather than tuning into a more happy and upbeat sound. There was a contrast between the participant groups of using music to cope with difficult emotions or using music to shift their mood that reminded them of positive times. This was a deliberate listening strategy. The findings showed that young people utilise music as a coping mechanism for unpleasant emotions like sadness and depression, anxiety, or a lack of drive and ambition. Personal taste was rather important as those who listened to music that did not match their preference had a negative impact. Thus, both beat, and lyrics had an effect on ones overall wellbeing. According to the research, it is evident that a variety of musical and personal factors, such as an individual's prior mood, how much they enjoy the music they are listening to, how hopeful the lyrics are, their unique thought patterns, and memories sparked by the music, all have an impact on how effective music listening strategies are. The results presented in this study shows that young people are encouraged to select music with grater consciousness of its effects on their well-being.


Holzmueller, C. (2021). Music Is Often a Better Medicine. Quality Management in Health Care, 30 (4), 280-282. doi:

Akombo, D. O. (2022). How Music Affects Cognitive Skills and Mental Health in Children: A Literature Review. CIVAE.

Aggarwal, S. (2021). The Effect of Art and Music on Stress and Anxiety Levels in Adolescents. International Journal of Social Sciences.

Garrido, S., du Toit, M., & Meade, T., (2022). Music Listening and Emotion Regulation: Young People’s Perspectives on Strategies, Outcomes, and Intervening Factors.

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