Do you ever go on car rides or for a run just to listen to loud music and switch off your thoughts? Do you tear up hearing a sad song? Or do you turn up the volume for your favourite song under the shower or while doing house chores? If so, you understand the power of music and the impact it can have on our mood. 

Music can lift us from sadness – How does it work?

Mood disorders like anxiety and depression cause sadness. Studies have shown that we use music to relax, feel happier, release our sadness, and facilitate concentration and focus. 

Past research shows that music has therapeutic benefits: It can reduce stress, anxiety depression, and even chronic pain. It can ground us in the present moment and help us release endorphins – “pleasure hormones” – and serotonin – the “happiness hormone” which both contribute to regulating mood and thinking more positively. 

A recent study by the BAST (British Academy of Sound Therapy) indicates how much time we need to listen to music to feel a difference: Listening to a fast song with a driving rhythm and positive lyrics can make us feel uplifted after 9 minutes. When we connect to the lyrics, it takes around 13 minutes to feel relieved from sadness.  

We often struggle to express ourselves verbally when we are sad. Music can serve as a form of self-expression then. We can sing along to the lyrics of uplifting songs to boost our mood – whilst doing it, it is likely that we start smiling or even laughing about singing out of tune which will release an extra portion of endorphins and serotonin. 

Which kind of music can lift us from sadness? 

Well, people are different and so is their taste in music. Listening to a fast-beat dance song increases our heart rate and awakens the urge to move our bodies as we attune to the rhythmic patterns – feel free to dance your sadness away. Songs with a slow and steady rhythm instead reduce stress by lowering our heart rate – meditative music results in relaxation. 

Depending on the situation and our mood, we can choose from different genres. When feeling sad, you may want to choose a song that helps you have a good cry so you will feel relieved afterward or a song that puts a smile on your face and disconnects you from what weighs you down. 

Do you have a favorite song? If yes, what makes it your favorite song? We often have happy memories associated with a favorite song. Listening to it in sad moments of life can feel like visiting an old friend. Thinking back to happier times whilst listening to certain songs can provide you with a sense of optimism and hope. 

Tuning into joy 

In summary, music can often easily distract us from what causes our sadness. Due to this distraction, we feel lighter. Music is a powerful tool and mood regulator as it can bring joy during difficult times. 

New research supports the idea of using the healing effect of music in therapeutic contexts going forward. Who knows, maybe at some point in the future, we will get music prescribed to increase focus, feel more relaxed, and overcome sadness. 

If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.

Franziska Richter is a transcultural counsellor with the Willingness Team, offering counselling sessions to individuals and couples. She is particularly interested in sexuality, relationship issues, trauma and general mental health.