We all want to feel our finest and improve our well being. Music can be in our daily lives to enhance our overall happiness. Discover how music affects your brain.

Almost every person can relate to music. Some of us love listening to our favorite artists while walking, taking a shower, reading, or doing almost anything. Going to a concert is an experience that many people look forward to. Remember that moment of intense goosebumps because your brain was releasing high levels of dopamine?

Neuroscientists have made studies where they see a correlation between listening to music and receiving a reward. These rewards are perceived as pleasure in your brain.

…music recruits neural systems of reward and emotion similar to those known to respond specifically to biologically relevant stimuli…

Anne Blood and Robert Zatorre

Our body responds to music naturally and involuntarily (walk to the beat, dance, reward). Consider listening to music more often. Not only because it helps your body release dopamine, but because you can enhance the following seven aspects.

Seven ways music affects your brain:

  1. Music Nostalgia
  2. Enhance Your Productivity
  3. Learn More efficiently
  4. Improve Your Memory
  5. Increase Creativity
  6. Psychological Benefits
  7. Feel Empowered

1. Music Nostalgia

When you listen to music from your youth years you become excited. This has a simple explanation according to neuroscience.

The music that shaped the years you were becoming yourself is accompanied by strong emotions. Therefore, the hormones of those years triggered the brain to hold on to the dreams you had at that time. The soundtrack of those years represents that feeling of excitement and self-discovery.

This study claims that memory is selective. Surely, you had some experiences which you don’t want to recall. Our brain does a pretty good job of forgetting about those. It is natural to think about the past romantically and beautifully.

music nostalgia sepia flora
Tape recorder, fill cassette holes to unprotect tabs by Sepia Flora

Why would you want to live in the past?
It is not about living in the past, but rather connecting to who you are. Your past experiences shaped the way you are today. That’s why you get excited when you listen to sounds from your past. It reminds you of who you are, and of the things you value the most.

It could be a great self booster to connect to the things that define you. You are you thanks to many of your past experiences. For instance, in times of doubt, it could be greatly beneficial to remember the things that define you. It is highly rewarding to connect to the things you matter the most.

Also, consider your memories, how well your brain associates a specific song to a moment in your past. Use that for when you are feeling stressed. Use a song that remembers you of a peaceful moment in your life.

Playlist: songs from high school and early twenties

2. Enhance Your Productivity

We have two attention systems: a conscious and an unconscious one. The latter is in charge of emotional processing. For this reason, it picks on external sounds before you realize what is going on.

Your unconscious system has an important task at hand: keeping you safe. Unfortunately, many times it distracts you over things that don’t necessarily need your attention. Keep it occupied on something pleasurable while your conscious mind works on an important task.

You don’t need to keep your unconscious occupied at all times, by all means, you should practice mindfulness. But, when you want to focus completely, you could try to engage your unconscious on a neutral sound. Just as mantras work.

Think of your unconscious mind as a dog that wants to play constantly. If you give it a bone to chew, it will focus on the bone, and it will stop bothering you.

Here is an interesting study that shows how background music has a positive impact on peoples’ productivity and satisfaction.

music brain productivity
Photo by: Jesse Orrico from Unsplash

Playlist: choose the music you like, it will increase your concentration. Keep away from songs with lyrics. Look for songs that will calm your mind ♪

More examples:

  • Music from video games.
    It makes sense, doesn’t it? Players don’t want distractions. It could work for you as well.
  • White noise
    Love this website because you can even put a timer on the noise!
    White noise works as a neutral sound. Your unconscious mind will engage with something neutral.
  • Spotify has many playlists for concentration. Look for one that suits you. I like this one.

3. Learn more efficiently

If you feel anxious about a test or an exam, you can use music to lower your stress levels. This way, you can focus on studying and your brain will remember things better.

The Mozart effect is a myth. However, music does improve your mood. That is a good reason to use it to study. You are willingly going to enjoy your time of studying. If you are in a good mood, most likely you will solve problems easily.

This trick works if you like music because it will lower your cortisol levels. However, if you don’t like music don’t listen to any. It will not improve your mood, but quite the contrary.

If you are studying a language, by all means, consider adding music as one of your main sources of information. Look at this post that shows how you can do this. Also, look at this school that improved students’ results by including music lessons.

Playlist: songs that improve your mood, classical music from the Baroque, stay away from lyrics to avoid distractions.

learn with music improve concentration
Photo by: Wu Yi from Unsplash


4. Improve Your Memory

Several studies highlight the significance of music when it comes to remembering things. For example, this study claims that music “helps the brain organize new information“.

The study states that when you need to pay attention, music affects the areas of the brain involved with memory. This way, your brain is more alert in anticipating events and revising new information. The music they used for the study was classical, particularly, William Boyce (1711-79).

Also, your brain likes patterns and catchy melodies. That is why many times you have songs stuck in your head. You can take advantage of this, and associate information you need to remember to certain melodies which you usually sing.

Next time you are studying or trying to memorize something new, rely on music and on the songs you like. Certainly, you can use it to remember things or to sort the information in your brain.

Look at this cool animation that shows how music enhances memory.

music helps you memorize
Photo by: Steve Harvey from Unsplash

Playlist: Classical music, again stay away from lyrics. ♪

5. Increase Creativity

What do you consider to be creative? For me, it is to be able to use our imagination. Most importantly, it is to let your mind wander and innovate.

Music can help you achieve that. Music helps you enter into that state where new ideas arise and where many of us like to be.

This study analyzed thoughts that arose on the participants based on the type of music they listened to.

Heroic-sounding music evoked more positive, exciting, constructive, and motivating thoughts, while sad-sounding music evoked more calm or demotivating thoughts.

Stefan Koelsch, et al.

How music affects our brain: a personal choice

Observe that depending on the feeling you want to evoke, so is the choice of music. With that in mind reflect on how music affects the brain. Notice that if you want to increase your creativity, you want to choose music that elevates your mood. But, if you want to concentrate, your choices will have to be completely different.

Also, note that this is a personal choice. Create your playlists for when you want to tap into your creativity. For me, it has always been rock and roll.

Read at this article in which a photographer relates his work to the type of music he chose. Listen to your heart, the way you associate certain music, and how your body reacts. When you want to be creative, it would be beneficial to know which music to choose.

For example, imagine classical music to design pottery, jazz to illustrate cooking books, and female soul singers to design jewelry.

music affects brain creativity
Creativity through music by Sepia Flora

Playlist: choose familiar music, and consider what you want to evoke. Go wild on the lyrics if this suits you! ♪

6. Psychological Benefits

Music produces feelings before and while listening to that part of the song that you love so much.

This is the anticipation phase. It turns out that your brain also releases dopamine during this moment. Your brain is excited about getting to that bit of music which you enjoy so much.
If you want to read further, I recommend this book. It explains how our instincts trigger many responses in our brains.

You can use this for your benefit. You can create a playlist of songs that have those bits you love. For example, a guitar solo, or a part where you feel excited because of a modulation.

An artwork or song that a person can relate to can provide comfort without the baggage of social interaction with another human being.

Yoon S, et al.

Now that you know how music affects your brain, use it to cope with your feelings. Put on some warm tune for when you are feeling blue. You would feel supported without the use of words.

listen music well being
Photo by: Haley Powers from Unsplash

study shows that if you want to lift your spirit, listen to music with that intention in mind. If you just listen to music without thinking anything, the effects are not the same. At least not as strong.

The key here is wanting and choosing the music you consider to be uplifting. Not everybody considers the same songs as happy songs. For this reason, use your memories and your instinct to create a playlist that lifts your mood.

although music may not be imperative for survival of the human species, it may indeed be of significant benefit to our mental and physical well-being.

Anne Blood and Robert Zatorre

Playlist: Create your playlists according to the feeling you want to evoke. For example, songs you associate with happiness or songs you associate with warmth. ♪

7. Feel Empowered

Do you remember Michael Phelps during the 2016 Olympics? He always entered the pool wearing headphones and listening to Eminem. It was his ritual to listen to music to feel empowered. Doing so, he believed, he was capable of winning, and he sure did.

The same happens with the superman pose. There are psychological studies that claim this is true. It is astonishing how your brain works. Especially, how music affects your brain. Now that you know this, use it in your favor. Create a playlist to invoke empowerment.

Knowing which type of music uplifts you is a great step towards making yourself a powerful playlist. If you don’t know where to begin, you have several options. For example, based on your personality this might help you recognize which type of music suits you best. Go to Spotify and look for uplifting, empowerment playlists. But, most importantly, explore your tastes, observe your reactions, listen, create, and enjoy your playlists.

Analyze how the rhythm of the songs affects your brain

A great tip is for you to focus on the rhythm of the songs. Some of the music we listen to goes to motor neurons. That’s why our body moves without us thinking about it. A good beat will make you move to a steady rhythm. Are you cold or don’t want to get out of bed? Play the sound of a disco song for example. Incorporate your inner rhythm and the rhythm around you to your well- being.

Experience beats, look for them, and use them to express and create playlists that uplift your soul. Your heartbeat, your feet, your hands, objects around you, are endless possibilities for you to generate a natural beat. Explore and explode with rhythm.

Playlist: Begin experimenting with Eminem, use soundtracks of powerful movies like Rocky, focus on a steady beat. ♪

music affects brain empowers
Music empowerment by Sepia Flora

Be aware of how music affects your brain

When I think about music, I see it as my most loyal companion. However, don’t depend on it. Like all addictions, they are not safe and you should have control over them. Use music mindfully. Notice when you are listening to it, and don’t do it automatically or depend on it. You will lose control over your present moment.

Don’t listen to music to escape from something. Use it to enhance your well being and to be conscious of how music affects your brain. Many of the benefits rely on the fact that music improves your mood. It also makes your brain release more dopamine. That is why you should use it wisely.

Read this very cool article. It helps you stay away from compulsive listening and incorporate music as a useful part of your life.

I would love to hear about your thoughts on this matter. What is music to you? When and how do you listen to music? What is your favorite band or genre? Please leave comments below.


9 Comments

Laura · June 27, 2020 at 08:13

Great ideas and insights about how to use music for our well being. Actually recently I started listening to Celine Dion. I hadn’t listened to her in years and brought such great memories. I can’t believe all I’ve grown and changed in the last 15 years or so since the last time I listened to her songs. It boosted my energy and made me grateful for what I have and what I’ve become which back in the days it were merely dreams. Thanks for this Sepia Flora!

Laura · June 27, 2020 at 08:12

I really liked the article! Great ideas and insights about how to use music for my well being. Actually recently I started listening to Celine Dion. I hadn’t listened to her in years and brought such great memories. I can’t believe all I’ve grown and changed in the last 15 years or so since the last time I listened to her songs. It boosted my energy and made me grateful for what I have and what I’ve become which back in the days it were merely dreams. Thanks for this Sepia Flora!

    sepiaflora · July 5, 2020 at 18:17

    Glad to hear that! It is incredible how music also makes us reflect on what we have become. 🙂

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