With music being as popular as it is for a source of regulating or supporting us in coping through emotions, I wanted to highlight a few ways that it can be helpful for us. Often we can feel the difference that playing a song has on us, such as giving us a release of emotion we have been holding in, calming us when stressed, or even blaring loud music to energize us in a workout. However here are some benefits to put into words how exactly music helps us regulate.
In similar ways of how we mirror emotions of others around us, we do the same thing with music (Heshmont, S, 2019). So, if having a tougher day and needing to balance that with some lighter, positive music, this can actually influence our mood. We can begin to mirror it, helping us to transition into a lighter emotional state. There is also research to show that different beats per minute can have an impact on helping us to relax or feel less stressed. So, if you find yourself naturally choosing more relaxing music, or noting a song relaxing you, it could be in part due to its beats per minute regulating you.
There is caution though, in that what we listen to can also have a negative influence. Growing up in the midwest, country music is a pretty popular genre—and while I love it personally, I know critiques of it do include it impacting mental health negatively (such as certain songs tend to make people feel more depressed and sad). That actually has some truth to it. Research findings have data to support that sad and moody songs can actually increase depressed feelings, in ways such as further downward spiraling our negative thoughts, thus causing us to fixate on it longer (Stewart, J., Garrido, S., Hense, C., & McFerran, K., 2019). However, there is a difference between this and utilizing music to release emotions in a more cathartic way. Similarly to how watching an intense or heartbreaking film can make us tear up, listening to a sad song can be useful in giving us a release of the emotions that we might be struggling to access ourselves, but have needed to release out (Heshmant, S, 2019).
Because we are unique in how we like to process and regulate our emotions, how we choose to utilize music to regulate will vary dependent on our mood, musical preferences, as well as the individualized ways that we prefer to engage with music (writing our own music and lyrics, dancing/movement, listening silently, etc.). I have worked with families that have a ‘calming’ playlist that they can turn on if the home is feeling a little too high energy, proactively having a coping tool to play through speakers in the home. I also have my own sets of playlists such as a higher energy list that can boost my mood, a moodier playlist for when I need to connect with my emotions more, and playlists that are more relaxing to me. In lieu of this, I hope we can feel encouraged that sometimes even the simple and easily accessible strategies can help us to process through our emotions effectively.
Read our blog on emotional health for additional regulation strategies and how to boost your mood!
Heshmant, S. (2019). 7 Effective Ways to Regulate Emotion With Music. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/science-choice/201909/7-effective-ways-regulate-emotion-music
Stewart, J., Garrido, S., Hense, C., & McFerran, K. (2019). Music Use for Mood Regulation: Self-Awareness and Conscious Listening Choices in Young People With Tendencies to Depression. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 1199. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01199
The information contained herein is not therapeutic advice nor a substitute for therapy. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any mental health problem. If you are located within the United States and you need emergency assistance please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. If you are located within Colorado you may also call the Colorado Crisis Line at 844-493-TALK (8255).