5 Ways Music Regulates Mood


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5 Ways Music Regulates Mood

How does music impact human behavior and emotion?

Music is a highly valuable tool for emotion regulation. Emotion regulation includes the ability to monitor, evaluate, and modify one’s internal and external emotional reactions (Gross 2014). Music brings on a pleasant state and helps to regulate moods and emotions (Koelsch, 2014). People use music in their everyday lives to regulate and diminish undesirable emotional states like stress and fatigue.

1. Music as a healing tool.

Music has been shown to be effective for the reduction of anxiety and worrying, as well as for pain relief in clinical settings (Koelsch, 2014). The notion of using music therapeutically has been in existence for many thousands of years. A famous historical example for the positive impact of music on mental disorders is the Spanish King Philipp V (1683-1746) who recovered by listening to the opera Merope sung by Carlo Broschi Farinelli (1705-1782) every night (in total 3,600 times) for 10 years (Gioia, 2019). The Bible, too, describes David playing his harp to ease King Saul’s physical and mental suffering. 

2. Social affiliation.

Music is intrinsically social. Music helps in maintaining and strengthening social cohesion and attachment. Music makes us want to tap our feet or to dance. Synchronization of movements to a beat with other individuals has social effects such as an increase in trust and emotional bonds between members of the community. Our body rhythms become synchronized with those around us during a musical performance. This explains why music often plays such an important role in a romantic evening with a loved one.

3. Sad music.

Listening to sad music can have several rewarding effects, such as emotional catharsis, empathic emotional responses, understanding one’s own feelings, and distraction. When feeling sad, we find sad music to be coherent with what we are feeling and that we are not alone in our sadness. However, the effect of music is personal. The same music that stimulates some people to dance may move others to tears. This exclusively depends on the thoughts that are aroused in our memories.

4. Better focus.

Music-evoked emotions reduce distractions and improve focus, such as engaging in sports and fitness, meditating, writing, and deskwork. In a study (Taruffi et al.,2017), happy-sounding music, compared with sad-sounding music, was associated with less mind wandering. The effect is important because habitual negative thoughts are a crucial problem for individuals with psychological disorders such as depression.

5. Consumer behavior. 

Research shows that music can subconsciously affect our moods and influence our purchasing behaviors (North et al., 2016). When a song plays at a fast pace, we move faster. When slower music is played, customers spend more time browsing. The pace of background music can influence how customers eat and drink in a restaurant. If the goal is to turn the tables faster and seat more customers, faster music is typically used.

In sum, music can produce a pleasant state and helps to regulate moods and emotions. Play a happy tune if you are feeling blue.

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