Why Is Music So Powerful? Mind-Body Benefits

Amy20MD 1

Medical reviewed by Amy Rogers, MD MPH FACPM

Preventive Medicine, Public Health, Lifestyle Medicine, Pandemic Response, Global Health

Have you ever wondered why music is so powerful? It’s like a secret potion, affecting everything from our heartbeats to the very fabric of our brains without us even realizing it. This magical force can paint our moods, stitch our wounds, and spark the flames of creativity while playing in the background of our everyday lives. 

Let’s dive into this article, exploring how music shapes our minds, soothes our souls, and even messes with us a bit.

Why is music powerful?

Why Is Music So Powerful Mind Body Benefits 01

Imagine sitting back, headphones on, and hitting play on your favorite playlist. As the music washes over you, something magical happens. This isn’t just relaxation; it’s a journey where each note and melody weaves into the fabric of your being, lighting up parts of your brain like a city at night. But why does music hold such power over us?

Music-brain connection: Can music improve your creativity?

The brain on music is a brain lit up with possibility.

Neuroscientific studies show music activates many areas of the brain beyond just hearing, including those tied to emotions, memory, and creativity. Listening to music is like a full-brain exercise, sparking creativity by changing brainwave patterns (1).

Listening to new music, especially genres or pieces outside of our usual preferences, challenges the brain in unique ways. 

Familiar tunes comfort us, but unfamiliar music pushes our cognitive boundaries, forcing us to process and understand novel patterns and structures (2). This can be a bit uncomfortable at first, but it’s this very challenge that can jump-start our creativity.

A study explores this concept further. Investigating how different types of background music affect creativity among design students, the study found that while music (both instrumental and with lyrics) didn’t significantly impact idea generation or evaluation, it positively influenced the novelty of designs and overall creativity (3).

This shows that music, whether instrumental or with lyrics, creates a space where new ideas can grow, highlighting its positive effect on creative work.

Does music make you happier?

At the very core of its impact, music has the remarkable ability to elevate our mood. This isn’t just a fleeting sensation but a deeply rooted physiological process. 

Neurological studies reveal that music can initiate a symphony of neurochemical releases, including (4):

  • Dopamine: Enhances feelings of pleasure and reward.
  • Cortisol: Music can help lower stress hormone levels and reduce anxiety.
  • Serotonin and oxytocin: These hormones bolster our mood and sense of connection to others, respectively.

This chemical cocktail soothes our current state and encourages a healthier, more resilient mental landscape. Music therapy, for instance, has shown promising results in improving the quality of life and social connections for individuals with schizophrenia and other mental health conditions (17). 

One of the most compelling aspects of music is its role in emotional regulation. Various studies have reported that people of all ages and backgrounds use music as a tool to manage their emotions. Music offers a way to process feelings, whether celebrating joy or navigating sorrow (5).

Moreover, music has proven to be a calming agent in stressful situations. The effect can be profoundly relaxing, whether it’s the gentle hum of a favorite melody or the immersive experience of nature sounds blended with music. 

While the impact on physiological stress markers like cortisol can vary, the consensus is clear: music has a unique capacity to soothe our nerves and promote relaxation after stressful events (6).

Practical tips for using music to enhance happiness:

  • Embrace the Iso-principle: Start with music that matches your current mood, then gradually shift to tunes that reflect your desired mood. This can gently guide your emotions in a positive direction.
  • Active engagement: Beyond passive listening, engaging in music creation or singing can amplify its mood-boosting effects. 
  • Mindful listening: Pay attention to how different types of music affect you and curate playlists that foster positive emotions. Be mindful of music’s power to influence your mood and use it as a tool for emotional well-being.
HT Native ads 11

Can music relieve pain?

So, how exactly does music ease the pain? 

The reason music helps with pain is fascinating. It’s all about how our minds and bodies react together. When we listen to music or even play it, we increase our endorphin production, which helps with pain tolerance. It’s not just in our heads; our bodies become better at handling pain, particularly when we are actively involved in producing music (7).

Moreover, music’s ability to reduce stress levels plays a crucial role. Stress worsens pain perception, so music indirectly contributes to pain relief by calming the mind. (8) Additionally, the enjoyment derived from music triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, creating a sense of well-being and further diminishing the sensation of pain.

Both a comprehensive literature review and another study using a questionnaire distributed among chronic pain sufferers confirmed that music could significantly decrease pain levels (9, 10). Chronic pain sufferers reported that music offered them control over their pain, enhancing their quality of life and providing a sense of independence and coping mechanism.

One intriguing aspect of music therapy is the importance of music choice. While personal preference plays a role, there’s evidence suggesting that music selected by therapists may be more effective at reducing pain intensity than music chosen by the patients themselves (10). This highlights the need for a tailored approach, where the therapeutic potential of music is maximized through careful selection and application.

Music and physical health

When we think about music, we often picture it as the backdrop to our daily lives, setting the mood or simply filling the silence. But its influence runs deeper, especially regarding our physical health.

Research shows that music can have a tangible effect on heart health (11).  Depending on a song’s tempo and intensity, it can alter your breath rate, heart rate, and even blood pressure. A soothing melody can calm the heartbeat, while an upbeat track can invigorate the cardiovascular system, making blood flow more freely.

Music is often considered an essential workout partner for gym goers. A 2020 research review confirmed what many fitness enthusiasts have long experienced: exercising with music not only elevates one’s mood but also enhances physical performance (12). 

This magical combination leads to longer, more efficient workouts and reduces the sensation of exertion. Essentially, your favorite playlist can help you push harder, run longer, and maybe even enjoy it more. Athletes, too, find their competitive edge sharpened by the right beats. High-intensity, fast-paced music can fuel better performance in high-stakes environments, acting as a psychological stimulant and physical metronome (13). The beat keeps you moving, not just to the rhythm, but towards peak performance, often using less oxygen—a boon for endurance and efficiency.

Music is more than just tunes in the background; it deeply affects our feelings and health. It can spark creativity, lift our spirits, soothe pain, and improve our workouts. Music changes how our brain works, helping us feel better and less stressed. Whether it’s upbeat songs for exercise or calming melodies to relax, music significantly influences our overall well-being.

HT Native ads 11

Music therapy to improve your quality of life

Music therapy stands as a testament to the profound impact music can have on our well-being. It is rooted in the scientific application of music to enhance physical, emotional, cognitive, and social health. Music therapy offers a world of benefits for those willing to explore its melodies and rhythms. 

At its core, music therapy involves using music’s elements—such as melody, rhythm, and harmony—to achieve specific therapeutic goals. 

This isn’t about passively listening to your favorite tunes; it’s an active, goal-oriented process facilitated by certified music therapists. 

These professionals are adept at tailoring sessions to meet the unique needs of individuals, employing techniques ranging from singing and playing instruments to discussing music’s emotional impact.

Music therapy has shown remarkable efficacy across a diverse spectrum of conditions, including but not limited to dementia, autism, mood disorders, chronic pain, and even recovery from brain injuries. Its beauty lies in its universal applicability; whether you’re a child experiencing developmental challenges or an adult coping with stress, music therapy has something to offer (14).

Incorporating music therapy into daily life

To reap the benefits of music therapy, consider connecting with a certified music therapist. 

Organizations like the American Music Therapy Association and the Certification Board for Music Therapists provide resources to find professionals in your area. These therapists work in various settings, including hospitals, schools, and rehabilitation centers, making them accessible to start with.

Music therapy is known for its safety, with minimal risks. However, it’s important to approach this therapy openly and to communicate with your therapist about any discomfort or negative emotions that may arise, as music can sometimes evoke strong emotional responses.

Daily practices for stress relief and well-being

Why Is Music So Powerful Mind Body Benefits 02

While working with a therapist is ideal, you can also integrate elements of music therapy into your daily routine for stress relief and mental wellness:

  • Create a relaxing playlist: Compile a list of tracks that bring you peace and calm. Listening to these can reduce stress and help regulate your mood, especially after a long day.
  • Engage in musical activities: Playing an instrument, singing, or even just tapping rhythmically to music can be therapeutic.
  • Mindful listening: Dedicate time to actively listening to music, focusing on the lyrics, melodies, and how the music makes you feel. This can help in emotional processing and provide a sense of peace and clarity.
  • Music and movement: Combine music with physical activity, like dancing or gentle stretching. This boosts your physical health, elevates your mood, and reduces anxiety.

Can music have negative effects on you?

While music is often celebrated for its profound ability to heal, inspire, and bring joy, it’s important to recognize that, like all powerful tools, it can have its downsides. Let’s explore how music can sometimes play a discordant note in our lives.

Why Is Music So Powerful Mind Body Benefits 03

Rumination and mood

Music often stirs deep feelings, but not all those feelings are good. Some songs, especially sad or negative ones, can make us dwell on bad thoughts and feelings, a process known as rumination. 

This can be tough for teenagers, who use music to express themselves and figure out their emotions. The wrong music at the wrong time can make depression and anxiety worse, turning a comforting activity into a source of stress (15).

Different types of music also carry their own meanings and can influence our behavior. For example, some music can push stereotypes or lead to negative actions like substance abuse or aggression, particularly in teenagers who are still figuring out who they are and how they fit into the world.

Hearing damage from high volumes

Concerts, nightclubs, and even personal listening devices can have sound at levels capable of causing permanent hearing damage. Noise-induced hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and hyperacusis (increased sensitivity to certain sound frequencies) are all potential outcomes of prolonged exposure to loud music. 

This form of hearing damage is increasingly common and largely preventable, emphasizing the need for greater awareness and protective measures (16).

Beyond the risk of hearing loss, loud music can cause immediate stress and discomfort. In extreme cases, such as the use of loud music for psychological torture, it can lead to lasting psychological trauma, including PTSD, anxiety, and depression. While these instances are extreme, they underscore the impact of sound on our mental and physical well-being (17).

If you’re a parent, getting involved in your kids’ music choices can help avoid some of the downsides of listening to music. Chatting about the songs they like and mixing up the types of music they listen to can teach them to handle their emotions better and think more critically about what they’re hearing.

Protecting your ears is crucial, especially if you’re often around loud music. Wearing earplugs in noisy places, keeping the volume down on your headphones, and taking breaks from the noise now and then can keep your hearing sharp.

HT Native ads 11

Is it rare to cry to music?

Not at all! Shedding tears to a powerful tune is as common as rain in Seattle. Music has this uncanny ability to tug at our heartstrings and unlock the floodgates of emotions we didn’t even know existed. It’s a universal experience, a testament to music’s profound impact on our emotional world. So next time you find yourself reaching for the tissues during a soul-stirring ballad, know that you’re in good company.

Is it bad to listen to music that makes you cry?

Listening to music that waters your cheeks isn’t bad—it’s actually therapeutic. It’s like giving your emotions a good spring cleaning, allowing you to process and release pent-up feelings. However, if your playlist turns into a non-stop tearjerker marathon, mixing in some upbeat tunes might be worth it to lift the spirits. Balance is key, just like not adding too much salt to your margarita.

Why is music so addictive?

Music is addictive because it hits the brain’s reward center like a perfectly thrown dart. When we hear tunes we love, our brain releases dopamine, the same feel-good chemical that pops up with delicious food or a rewarding activity. It’s a natural high, with the bonus of no hangovers or calories. Plus, music is always there for you—no judgment, no questions asked, just press play.

What happens if you listen to music too loud?

Blasting music louder than a rocket launch can harm your ears. Over time, it can lead to noise-induced hearing loss. You might also get a constant ringing in your ears, known as tinnitus.


To sum it up, we’ve seen just why music is so powerful—it touches everything from how we think and feel to how our bodies work. Music is more than just tunes; it boosts our creativity, cheers us up, eases our pain, and keeps us healthy. But remember, it’s all about balance. Too much of certain types of music can actually stress us out or hurt our ears. By bringing music therapy into our everyday lives, we tap into all the good stuff music has to offer for our well-being. So, let’s enjoy music wisely, keeping our minds and ears open to all its benefits.

How Do You Feel About This Article?

Amy20MD 1

Medical reviewed by Amy Rogers, MD MPH FACPM

Preventive Medicine, Public Health, Lifestyle Medicine, Pandemic Response, Global Health

  • sticker
  • sticker
  • sticker
  • sticker
  • sticker

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Ebook Download

Best 50 foods, recipes & 14-day meal plans for diabetes management

    *Note: It might take a few minutes.

    Kindly check your spam if you don't find it in your inbox.