They say music softens the soul, but music has a much more profound impact on our emotions than we generally realize.
Whether it’s wrapping yourself in a blanket with Radiohead playing in the background on a rainy November afternoon, vibrating to Rosalía’s latest hit, or enjoying a glass of wine while listening to a Chopin Nocturne, music is an undeniable part of our humanity, setting us apart from other species on Earth.
The astonishing power of music on the mind
“How does music manage to exert such a powerful influence on our psyche?” you’re probably wondering. Well, here’s what we know.
Music, according to ‘Psychology Today‘, offers a valuable resource for regulating our emotions. It allows us to disconnect from anxiety-provoking situations and focus on its intrinsic beauty. Sometimes we recognize ourselves in the lyrics of a song, and this can give voice to our experience, making us feel less alone.
When music becomes an anti-stress solution
It’s worth noting that soft, slow music is often the most effective for dealing with negative emotions. Similarly, upbeat music can have a significant impact in stressful situations, helping us to manage them better.
Sad music can also bring pleasure. For some, it intensifies those feelings of loss and nostalgia, reminding them of personal events. But sometimes, listening to a sad song when you’re not feeling well can also make you feel as if someone is reaching out to you, creating a sense of empathy.
Sad music: a natural tranquilizer?
The reward can be purely biochemical, such as the feeling of relief after crying. On a biological level, sad music is linked to the production of prolactin, a hormone associated with crying, which generates soothing sensations to counter mental pain. “Sad music is linked to prolactin, a hormone that generates soothing sensations to counter mental pain.”
Music also makes us want to cry, because it provokes in us an indescribable feeling of admiration. This feeling is a kind of wonder at what other minds can create. It’s an intense and, of course, pleasurable experience.
Music, master of time?
Music demonstrates that the perception of time is essentially subjective: it can distort “clock time”. Music is a powerful emotional stimulus that alters our relationship with time. Indeed, time seems to pass more quickly when we listen to pleasant music, which also seems to divert our attention from time processing.
This shortening effect seems to be more marked in the case of quiet, slow-tempo music. For example, music is used in waiting rooms to reduce the subjective length of waiting time, or in supermarkets to encourage people to stay longer and buy more. In short, it can alter our moods, emotions and motivation.
They say music softens the mood. It does much more: it enriches our lives, whether it’s Radiohead in the background of a rainy November afternoon, Rosalía’s latest hit, or a Chopin Nocturne accompanied by a glass of wine. Used in every culture, it has the ability to soothe us, even to console our pain. It is without doubt one of the most poignant testimonies to our humanity, which sets us apart from other species on Earth.
I’m a big fan of short stories about people – I’m a pro at tech and smartphones, serial literature, and writing in my spare time.