Melody of the mind

Emotion regulation is an essential component to mental health and your well being, if your emotions are poorly regulated it can have serious effects and can cause psychiatric mood disorders such as depression. Clinical music therapists know that music can heavily impact your emotions and music can be used to help people to better their mood states and even help to relieve symptoms.

Researchers at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Music Research at the University of Jyväskylä, Aalto University in Finland and Aarhus University in Denmark decided to investigate the relationship between mental health, music listening habits and neural responses to music emotions by looking at a combination of behavioural and neuroimaging data. The results showed a link between music listening styles and mPFC (medial prefrontal cortex) activation, this affects your decision-making and can have positive affects on how you make decisions.

Molly Warren, a music therapist, specializes in working with individuals with trauma and neglect backgrounds and other behavioural disorders. She explains her experience from the viewpoint of the therapist and how she helped people through their trauma. When she worked at a psychiatric hospital she would wheel her cart of instruments down the hallways every morning. She said that patients would linger and smile as she walked past, often tapping on a drum or strumming the guitar. The patients would exclaim, ‘Molly’s here! It’s time for music therapy group’. The music provided them with the opportunity for expression and for experiencing safety, peace and comfort.

A study from 2013 suggested that people who listened to upbeat music could improve their moods and boost their happiness in just two weeks. Happiness is linked to better physical health, higher income and greater relationship satisfaction. Music that is powerful enough to be ‘spine-tingling’ can light up the brain’s “reward centre”, much like pleasurable stimuli such as alcohol or chocolate, suggesting that even just listening to music has highly positive affects on our mental and physical state.

The famous rapper Futuristic wrote a song called ‘Music saved my life’ where he expresses his love for music and how it helped him through rough periods in his life. He says ‘but I’m too addicted to this music’ which suggests that music can have an addictive affect and make you want more. He talks about how he wanted to end his life and how his problems at home were making him depressed but at the end of the song he proclaims that ‘music saved my life’. Singing or playing music has the same influence as listening to music and is heavily impacts your mental well being in a positive way.

This TED talk by Kathleen M. Howland explains how music therapy has the power to heal and transform our brains and bodies in significant ways:

Learn more here:

Written by Carmen Plevin, Student at the Guernsey Grammar School and Sixth Form Centre on her work experience placement at the Guernsey Arts Commission


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