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Published on December 03, 2018

Music for Mental Health

When you need to focus on a project, tackle a long to-do list of boring tasks, or have just had a hard day, consider putting on the sounds of whatever music inspires you.

Music is a natural mood booster, and research now confirms that music not only influences our moods, but can reduce the negative effects of stress, while helping us focus and manage our emotions.

Listening to music actually changes the way your brain functions. If you’ve ever felt chills while listening to music (and research shows that about 90 percent of us have) then you have experienced this. Music stimulates an ancient reward pathway in the brain, encouraging dopamine to flood part of the brain associated with motivation.

Music can help you regulate your mood and improve your mental wellness by:

  • Reducing the body's response to stress
  • Relieving symptoms of depression
  • Relieving anxiety
  • Improving cognition
  • Improving sleep
  • Increasing intensity and endurance of workouts

It’s important to pick the right music for the right purpose. If you’re feeling down, try to think about what music inspires you. If your thoughts are racing, calming music may help.

Likewise, classical music or instrumentals have been shown to increase people's ability to focus while working on a difficult task. Conversely, putting on exciting music might make cleaning the kitchen more enjoyable and the last few minutes on the treadmill more bearable.

But beware: since music can bring up strong emotions and remind you of certain people or memories, try to avoid music that evokes sad feelings or makes you think of upsetting things. Making playlists ahead of time for different moods is a great way to make sure you always have the right mood-fixer at your fingertips.

If you feel that you might need more support, take our mental health screening. It’s a simple, confidential way to see if you have symptoms of a treatable mental health disorder. After the screening, if needed, you can make the decision to meet with a mental health professional.

dave miers

About Dr. Dave Miers

Dave Miers, PhD, is the counseling and program development manager for mental health services at Bryan Medical Center in Lincoln, Neb.

He helped establish the Nebraska State Suicide Prevention Coalition in 1999 and chaired/co-chaired this Coalition until 2017. He currently serves as the past co-chair. Dr. Miers is a member of the leadership group for the Lincoln/Lancaster County Suicide Prevention Coalition. Dr. Miers has published research and co-authored a chapter in the Routledge International Handbook of Clinical Suicide Research focusing on family survivors of a child suicide. Dr. Miers helped develop the Lincoln Lancaster Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors (LOSS) team in Lincoln, Neb. He also helped develop other LOSS teams in Nebraska and is active with LOSS team development on a national level.

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