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Ask Dr. Lowenstein: Can listening to music improve your mood?

You’re driving to work when one of your favorite songs starts playing on the radio. Almost immediately, you notice an uptick in your mood. This may be something everyone can relate to, but few of us understand the reason behind it.  

Turns out, listening to music actually boosts dopamine production in the brain. And we know that the hormone dopamine can help reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. The reward center of the brain, also known as the amygdala, is the part responsible for mood and emotions, and it is directly affected by the increased levels of dopamine. Simply put, that’s why music gives us pleasure.

Don’t forget that music and movement often go hand in hand. Your favorite music could inspire you to get up and dance, or even exercise. When that happens, endorphins and serotonin are released to the brain, improving your overall outlook and mood.

Music as therapy

Music therapy has been touted as an effective way to treat many disorders, including depression. In some instances, individuals have even achieved greater happiness from listening to positive music over a period of time. But the benefits don’t stop there. Music has been known to help fight insomnia, decrease feelings of loneliness, and improve social bonds.

If you struggle with worry and fear—and often fall into a vicious trap of rumination—hearing a favorite song can help refocus your attention on something positive and powerful. Your thoughts very quickly switch to the memories and good feelings that accompany the music. That comfort you feel is instrumental in repairing your mood.

Music for your health

In addition to improving your mood and overall happiness, music is also widely connected to better heart health. For starters, it could encourage you to exercise more frequently and for longer periods of time. So be sure to crank up your playlist the next time you take a walk. But it may also help reduce anxiety in heart attack survivors and improve blood vessel function by relaxing the arteries.

Maybe you didn’t need a reason to listen to your favorite music, but now that you have a few, consider incorporating it into your daily life. The rewards are well worth the effort.

Dr. David Lowenstein is a Columbus, Ohio-based psychologist with more than 35 years of experience. He conducts individual, family, and group therapy sessions in his German Village office and also via telehealth. Dr. Lowenstein is also available for expert forensic testimony, and for educational workshops and presentations. He is frequently called upon as an expert source for print, radio, and broadcast media. Contact Dr. Lowenstein at Lowenstein & Associates, 691 South Fifth Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43206, or call 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.