Chained to the rhythm

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Credit: Maya Salim, Music as Enlightenment.

For many of us, platforms like iTunes and Spotify can be our solace. Whether it be plugging in your headphones or air pods for some tunes while studying, heading to class, or riding the shuttle home.

Why is that? And what is up with our obsession with music? Well, put simply, it is because we are emotional creatures.

That is exactly why we have a dozen break up playlists ready for the broken-hearted to purposely feel miserable. Or those classical jazz playlists to make us feel lavish while we sip cheap wine.

For many of us, platforms like iTunes and Spotify can be our solace. Music can transport us to a different state of mind, whether it be plugging in your headphones or air pods for some tunes while studying, heading to class, or riding the shuttle home.

Why is that? And what is up with our obsession with music? Well, put simply, it is because we are emotional creatures.

That is exactly why we have a dozen break-up playlists ready for the broken-hearted to purposely wallow in misery or those classical jazz playlists to make us feel lavish while we sip cheap wine.

The point is – people love to feel complex emotions, and music can provide the space to dive into these emotions. We often turn to music in times of psychological distress as an outlet to moderate, exacerbate or alleviate a certain emotion.

The process of engaging with music to regulate our emotions is known as emotion regulation. It is essentially when someone consciously or unconsciously makes an effort to influence which emotions they have, how they have them and when to express them. Using music, people can regulate and influence their emotions in several ways.

A standard way people try to regulate their emotions through music is by choosing their tunes based on the situation they’re experiencing. Many of us actively seek suitable songs that support, control, or change our current emotional state. It’s no wonder we have a multitude of playlists for every occasion.

But can we harness music for the benefit of our mental health?

Recent studies highlight the prevalence of anxiety and affective disorders, such as depression in Australia. In fact, researchers highlight that those in a depressed mood or have depression tend to gravitate towards sad music, worsening their predicament by amplifying these negative emotions. These behaviours can throw us off in a loop, ruminating or suppressing emotions, especially when faced with challenging situations.

Fortunately, these three strategies that can help circumvent these loops for everyone, whether you experience psychological symptoms or not!

  1. EVALUATIVELY CONDITIONED MUSIC 

Do you have that one song that lifts your spirits no matter the situation? Chances are, you associate it with a positive event or memory, and the mere sound of it evokes a happy emotion. You can use this knowledge to your advantage by revisiting songs that you associate with a positive experience when feeling low.

  1. EMOTIONAL CONTAGION VIA MUSIC 

Our minds tend to mirror the emotions that are expressed in the music we listen to. Somber music evokes sombre emotions, and cheerful music evokes cheerful emotions – which means that one can alter their state of emotion simply by modifying what they listen to.

If you frequently listen to songs that make you sad, try experimenting with different lively genres to evoke a more positive emotion. You’ll be surprised by the impact a change in musical mood can have on your overall well-being.

  1. MUSIC AND VISUAL IMAGERY 

Music has a way of triggering mental images that enhance our emotional experience. The presence of mental images can become a therapeutic tool for listeners, stimulating experiences of floating in the presence of happy music, or self-reflection in the presence of unhappy music. By finding songs with lyrics that evoke joyful or pleasant images, you can help you temporarily escape your negative thoughts.

In the end, music is not the ultimate solution to all negative emotions, but it can act as a good buffer in psychological distress or as a quick fix after a long day.

Check out Chosic, a music genre finder to check out the levels of happiness and energy of your music taste and more!

Maya Salim

Hi there! I am currently studying psychology. I chose this because I revel in uncovering…

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