Music’s Powerful Impact on the Mind

There’s nothing quite like music. Sure, it’s fun to get into watching movies, TV shows, or sports, but nothing has caught my attention more than music has. It’s stayed so consistently present in my life, and has become a dependency for me–but a healthy one at that. I’m sure many can relate, but I listen to music when doing almost anything: there is rarely a time when I’m not wearing my AirPods. Because it is ever-present in my life, I wanted to look into why I have such a strong attachment to it and the impact it can have on the human mind.

Influence on mood
Music is a truly powerful thing. Studies have shown that music can actively boost the brain’s production of the hormone dopamine. This increased dopamine production helps relieve feelings of anxiety and depression.

It also has the ability to evoke some of the rawest emotions and can dictate your mood whether it be in a positive or negative way. I think that’s why so many people resonate with music: it makes them feel something more than just surface level. It can also influence the way you feel about yourself and others, and allow you to take on perspectives not considered before. Perhaps one of the best things about music, though, is it can flood you with so many senses of nostalgia. Some of those senses may hurt, some of those senses may make you smile, and some may leave you feeling empty. However, that’s what makes music so addicting. It has the power to make you really feel.

Influence on memory
The way in which music can transport you back to one single moment in time is something that has always intrigued me. Two recent studies–one in the United States and the other in Japan–conducted by Harvard Medical School found that music doesn’t just help us retrieve stored memories, it also helps us lay down new ones. In both studies, healthy elderly people scored better on tests of memory and reasoning after they had completed several weekly classes in which they did moderate physical exercise to musical accompaniment. Music taps into a part of your brain you didn’t realise you had. One strike of a chord and you can remember the very moment–or moments–in your life that you listened to that song.

That is why I choose to organise my music by monthly playlists, and why you should too. The other day, I was a bit bored with my usual rotation. For some reason, I had an urge to scroll all the way back to some of my first playlists, just to see what I was listening to back then. The first monthly playlist I created dates back to April of 2018, which was made during the spring of my sophomore year of high school. I couldn’t believe the number of songs I had completely forgotten about but remember absolutely loving at the time. Listening to these tunes that once blasted throughout my car as I drove to high school was all a rush of nostalgia.

Listening back to those times made me reflect on my past self and assess how much–and in what ways–I’ve changed. It also actively reminds me of the great times I’d be listening to that exact chorus with people I may not even talk to anymore or in places I no longer frequent. Although it may seem like it stings, it’s only a reminder of how much I’ve grown. Music has become my favourite outlet for reflection and will be in my life forever.

Although you may not realise it, music’s impact on the mind is significant. It can go as far as to alter the chemicals in your brain, manifesting itself in the way your mood can fluctuate or the things you can remember. Don’t underestimate the power of music: it can undoubtedly change your life.

By: Maddy Adler