There might not be a silver bullet out there for improving mental health, but music comes pretty close in its ability to boost cognitive performance, mood, and coping ability.
Music has been shown to alleviate stress, help people work through grief, and even help people to eat less and control their cravings. If this sounds too incredible to be believed, then continue reading to see all of the ways that music can boost your mental health.
The Surprises Abound
Our brains can be thought of as machines that make predictions. Sometimes the predictability of a routine can be stabilizing, but routines can also make us feel stuck in our daily lives.
Music throws a curveball to our brains by providing dissonance and quick changes in a song’s time signature that throw off our brains and help us to get out of a rut.
The disparity between what the brain expects to happen next in a piece of music and what the brain’s sensory input is actually registering can make for a startling effect that’s quite pleasurable.
Music Improves Cognitive Performance
Studies have now shown clinically that playing music in the background can improve cognitive performance across a wide range of cognitive tasks. Instrumental tracks might be best since those offer less distraction compared to singer-songwriter ballads, which could be distracting while working on something.
Music Improves Memory
Music has the ability to improve dramatically learning and memory. Interestingly, the hippocampus, which is an area of the brain underlying short-term memory, is also part of the limbic system, which controls emotion. Coincidence?
Music Solidifies Emotional Events
Did you ever notice how more companies are using emotional music in their commercials? The reason that companies are doing that is that so you remember their television advertisements and parlay those same positive feelings you have for the familiar song on to their product.
People’s brains associate music with major life events. Think of the “Canon in D Major” played at weddings or “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” played during the seventh inning. Later on in life, people will think about the music in connection with the wonderful wedding they attended or that exciting ball game that they caught after work.