Music as Therapy: Can Music Help to Regulate Mood?

Music therapy is not a new concept and is commonly used in such areas as improving cognitive functioning, emotional development and enhancement of social skills.

Studies have shown that when in a negative mood such as angry or frustrated, listening to music can aid relaxation and relief from the negative mood.

Studies have also shown that listening to music in old age is associated with increased positive emotions, improved quality of life, increased hope and better physical and mental health.

Researchers from Bar-Ilan University examined people’s beliefs about the impact of music on the regulation of a bad mood by asking participants:

whether they tend to listen to music when feeling bad, and if so, what is the mood of the music (i.e., sad or happy) they choose, and whether they believe that music can improve their mood.

The research team found participants who reported turning to music when they were feeling bad were using music as a strategy to regulate their mood. (Shifriss et al, 2014)

a regulation strategy that can be considered as focusing, that is, of directing more attention to their emotions.

However those who reported turning to music when feeling bad did not report using the music as a distraction.

a regulation strategy that can be considered as distraction, that is, of trying to repair their mood, more intensively.

As well as other findings, the research found that people who turn to music generally believe in the music’s power to regulate their mood more than those who don’t, believing that music will entertain them, calm them, divert attention, release negative emotions as well as helping them to embrace a new perspective.

This study highlights the importance of establishing a baseline mood when music is being used as therapy, as the type of music may be a moderating factor in regulating mood.