The Science Behind the Therapeutic Effects of Music

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The Science Behind the Therapeutic Effects of Music

Almost every person has a comfort song - a song that takes them back in time, makes them instantly feel better. Music is a big part of the way many people cope with adversity and challenges. Conversely, a lot of people also have songs that take them back to a not so happy moment of their life. In every celebration, in worship, in movies and storytelling, or for every day listening, music is there. The point is, music can make us feel a range of emotions. It can make us smile, laugh, dance, cry, give us chills, or help us relax.

An increasing body of recent research has highlighted the significant benefits of music for mental health. Knowing that such is the power of music, it makes sense that it is used as a therapeutic modality by many mental health professionals.

Deconstructing ‘Music’     

Before we begin to look at how music can help with one’s mental health, let’s start by asking - what is music?

Music, at its core, is an arrangement of sounds which leads to creation of harmonies, rhythms, and melodies. As an art form, it combines vocal and instrumental sounds for emotional and self expression. Music is found in every culture, all over the world, in all human societies. Classical music, folk music, pop, rock, jazz, blues - different genres of music originate from different regions of the world and from different periods of time. However, all of them hold the same basic characteristics.

As mentioned above, a lot of research has highlighted the healing effects of music over the years. Studies show that we are attracted to and utilize scales, which are ordered sets of musical notes like the pentatonic scale, that are built upon the natural harmonic series of notes. Every note evokes a particular type of emotion, and certain note intervals have been proven to resemble human speech. This might further explain why we feel attracted to certain scales and note intervals. This knowledge is made use of in harnessing the power of music and is commonly used for healing and bettering mental health.

Examining the Mental Health Benefits of Music    

Music has the following benefits for our mental health:

1. Decreasing Stress and Anxiety     

Relaxing music has been shown to lower the production of cortisol, the stress hormone, which in turn decreases stress and lowers elevated heart rates and blood pressure. Ambient music or music without lyrics most commonly has this relaxing effect. In clinical settings, music has been used to reduce anxiety in patients undergoing medical procedures, demonstrating its potential as a useful intervention which does not make use of pharmaceutical drugs.


2. Pain Reduction    

Music has been proven to have an effect on reduction of pain perception in patients undergoing surgery. When people were allowed to listen to music of their choosing, it was shown that they rated lower pain levels, and their tolerance for pain increased. It can be utilized as something to help patients with chronic pains. 

3. Enhanced Learning and Memory     

Go back to when you were a kid - do you remember singing your ABCs? It is true that music and melodies can aid in learning and recalling things. That’s why you must have heard of people making songs out of complicated concepts that they would struggle to remember otherwise. Music doesn't just help retrieve stored memories, it has also been shown to help lay down new ones.

4. Improved Concentration    

Music can also enhance concentration and cognitive function. Engaging with music stimulates various regions of the brain, which helps to improve attention and memory. Background music, particularly instrumental or classical music, can create an optimal environment for focus and productivity.

5. Benefits for Mood     

Music, as we talked about earlier, has a strong effect on mood. This effect can be both negative and positive. Honing in on the positive effect of music on mood can include listening to upbeat and energetic music to get oneself pumped up. Happy music releases feel-good hormones in the body, which leads to improvement of mood and general affect.

6. Emotional and Self Expression    

Music provides people a creative outlet for self-expression, which can be used to express things that may be hard to put into words. Many people, for example musicians, associate music with their personality and hold it close to their identity which helps in increasing their overall wellbeing and quality of life as well. For those experiencing some forms of emotional and psychological problems, this can be of great help since it can provide an outlet to let out what you are feeling inside.

7. Connection and Community    

There is no doubt that music offers the opportunity for interaction and working with other people which can be indisputably helpful in combating many mental health challenges that are directly connected to social isolation. This can be done through group activities, such as choirs, singing in religious groups, and community events. Think back to the last time you attended a concert and how you felt when you were there - it will help you realize the social power of music.

8. Coping mechanism    

Along with its therapeutic applications and benefits, music also serves as a valuable coping mechanism for managing everyday stress and challenges. Many people instinctively turn to music to regulate their emotions and seek comfort and solace in challenging times.

Music and Sound Therapy    

Owing to the healing powers and the mental health benefits of music, it is no surprise that music is utilized in the therapeutic process. But did you know, music and sound therapy are evidence-based therapies of their own right?

Music therapy can be both active and passive. Active music therapy would involve clients being involved in the creation of music, while passive music therapy would be concerned with listening to music and relaxation using it. A combined approach can also be used, utilizing both active and passive methods. It is generally most effective when used in combination with other therapies and or medications. Clients don’t need to have any musical training or talent; the practice doesn’t focus on technical skills but employs music as a tool for reflection and communication.

Sound therapy or sound healing is another form of therapy separate from music therapy, which involves making use of specific tones, vibrations, and rhythms to stimulate healing processes in the body. Sound Therapy is based on the sound frequencies of instruments played in a meditative style, to produce homeostasis (a state of equilibrium) in the body. It is based on traditional healing systems, and can be taught as a component of certain styles of music therapy.


Music's profound impact on mental health is evident in its ability to reduce stress, enhance concentration, improve mood, facilitate social connection, provide a means of self-expression, and serve as a coping mechanism. By making use of the therapeutic benefits of music by incorporating it into daily life, we can enhance our mental well-being and overall quality of life.

At Solh Wellness, we recognize the healing power of music and offer a variety of healing music and audio resources to support your mental health. Whether you are looking to de-stress, improve your mood, or something to strike your creativity with, our curated selection of music and healing audio can help you achieve your mental health goals. You can also explore various music related therapies and mental health professionals through the ‘Allied therapies’ section on our app.