People and music go hand in hand. Music matters. No matter what part of the world you’re in, at some point in your life, music has played a significant role. For some of us that may mean a song reminds us of someone or something. For others, it may trigger a feeling or a mood. For others, music just may be something to help kill time. No matter how it plays in your life, we can assure you, it had some role.

Music evokes emotions. It may make us cry or prompt us to take a stand and make social change. Music becomes a part of our legacy or the legacy of a generation or individual.

People have used it as the soundtrack for their movement. It is the tiny layer between where you are and where you want to be. It’s been there for every fight from civil right fights to fighting for world peace to demanding environmental protection. Music fits into every aspect of our lives.

Countless musicians have affected change through music since the beginning of time. Over the last decade, it has been used in the treatment of mental illness. Astonishingly, one in four adults in the United States suffers from a mental illness. Unfortunately, only about forty percent of those people receive treatment. Alternative treatment options such as meditation, creative art, and yoga have been used to bridge the gap between people who receive comprehensive face-to-face treatment and those who may not have access to sit-down sessions. But the ubiquitous nature of music in our society may be key to easing the gap. It has the greatest potential among the many alternative therapies to reach people who may not have access to care.

Research suggests that music can heal emotional suffering. Through controlled treatment, the outcome could be life-changing for so many people. It’s not reliant on just listening to music but can be expanded to playing an instrument. Both improve symptoms and social functioning in people with a schizophrenia diagnosis.

Music has been shown to reduce levels of depression, anxiety, and chronic pain in people with these chronic conditions. There are several factors that play a role in these transformations. One, music has positive physical effects. It has been known to produce direct biological changes such as reducing heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol levels.

Some studies suggest that exposure to prosocial lyrics like those found in folk songs increases positive thought, empathy, and altruistic like behavior. There’s also the thought that music promotes a feeling of togetherness or belonging, so it helps people feel that they are part of a larger community and not alone in their suffering or pain. Simply being exposed to music improves social connection and can support or improve mental health outcomes for people in or seeking treatment.

If you’re feeling blue, perhaps do a nonscientific study on yourself and log how you feel after listening to various genres of music. Are your spirits lifted or have you been pulled out of your thoughts? Just as music energizes you when you exercise, music can have a positive impact on your mental health as well.

By: Ava Mallory