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Let the Music Move You

Have you ever noticed how you could be having a horrible day but as soon as you get in the car and your favourite song comes on; your mood instantly lifts!

Music just like certain smells can instantaneously trigger a range of emotions, from sad, nostalgic, stressed, calm, content or happy.

Listening to music has the ability to activate the entire limbic system, the part of the brain responsible for processing our emotions and controlling memories, with neuroimaging now able to capture the moment music “lights up” our brain.

Could we use this information to help manage stress, low mood, cognition and depression in our own lives?

Stress Relief

Research has found music to be an effective intervention in reducing stress and low mood in a range of subjects.

Certain tempos and vibrations have the ability to reduce cortisol (stress hormone), improve attention and lower one’s heart rate, pulse, blood pressure and respiration rate.

Slower tempo (approx. 60BPM) music has been linked with higher levels of relaxation and stress reduction during stressful tasks.

Studies show that about 30 minutes of music is required for sustain benefit but that the improvement on our subconscious can be seen almost instantly.

Music and Depression

A recent study tested the immediate impact of music on self-reported mood and physiological markers (cortisol and EEG/brain waves) in clinically depressed individually; what they found was that most people’s physiological markers improved almost instantly, even before the people reported feeling better themselves.

A second study looked at the long term benefit of music in depression and found that talking to a music therapist weekly plus 30 minutes of prescribed music daily showed improvements in depression, distress, self-esteem and mood.

These improvements were still present nine months after the study ceased, showing that music isn’t just a quick fix but has the potential to reduce symptoms of depression long term.

It's all about Tempo

The tempo of a piece of music is the speed of the underlying beat.

The tempo of a song may be one aspect of music that is responsponsable for it's effect on our moods; for example in yoga or a meditation class, music will often have a lower tempo which creates a feeling of balance and calms the body.

However, slow tempo may not be good for everyone, a recent study showed slower tempos can have a negative affect on those with diagnosed depression or elect a sense of sadness in a subject, in these cases an upbeat tune maybe more benefical.

Musician will often say that a fast tempo in major is often up-lifting and slow tempo songs in minor will generally have a more depressing effect.

Can Music Make You Smarter?

Music doesn’t necessary improve our cognition but it can improve our emotions and reduce stress which naturally results in an improved ability to work through complex tasks and improve focus.


  1. Music preference is very personal- I use Spotify to create my own playlist, it also has a number of pre-existing playlist that you can listen to if you don’t know where to start.

  2. It doesn’t have to be western music that can be soothing, Tibetan singing bowls encourages the brain to enter Theta brain wave frequency which can create a meditative and peaceful state- Tibetan singing bowl meditations can be accessed via Youtube.

  3. If you or your family members are suffering from mental health issues please always talk to your doctors and health professionals.

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