What music makes you happy

Music makes you happy: Effect on our emotions

A song on the radio can develop an incredible power: It can make us cry, bring back memories or even make us feel extreme joy. But how does it work? What happens in our body and brain when we hear certain songs? And how can we use these sensations in a targeted manner?

A rapid chase, fast music and your pulse - suddenly racing. Have you ever experienced it? The right music in a movie can extremely affect our emotions in no time. Music on the radio makes us happy, sometimes very emotional, but it always does something to us. Doctors and therapists have long recognized the power of sound and music is used as a form of therapy to relieve pain, trigger memories and enable communication.

So one thing is clear: music makes you happy - but how does it actually work? What happens in our brain and how are our emotions connected to these processes?

Effects of music on the brain: happiness hormones in abundance?

There are hardly any things that can fill us with happiness as music can. The assumption that music is directly related to dopamine, one of our happiness hormones, is therefore obvious. But, is this really the truth?

It is worth taking a look at brain research: Music is an important subject of investigation here. To find out what effect music has on our brain, scientists from the University of Barcelona carried out an experiment: 27 test subjects were given the dopamine precursor levodopa, then a placebo and finally the dopamine blocker risperidone at least one week apart. After each drug administration, music was played to the participants, their personal favorite songs and ten other songs selected by the team of experts. The subjects were then asked to rate the experience. The results showed: If the effect of dopamine in the brain was blocked by risperidone, the test subjects found the music less pleasant and they showed fewer physical reactions such as goose bumps. However, if the dopamine level was artificially increased by levodopa, the effect of music was much stronger and the test subjects showed pronounced emotions and physical reactions. Another study by the well-known neuroscientist Stefan Koelsch has also shown that happy pieces of music reduce the concentration of the stress hormone cortisol in the blood. So dopamine is closely related to music.

The brain and body react to sounds and melodies, we get in a good mood, our stress level drops and relaxation increases.

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The effect of music on emotions

So neuroscientists study what happens in the brain while we are listening to music - psychologists, on the other hand, study the effects certain musical genres have on our emotions.

Music always sets internal processes in motion - but which feelings are triggered and which thoughts are linked to them, differ from person to person. One thing is clear: music moves us.

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Different types of music trigger different feelings

In films, soulful melodies in love scenes let us get drunk with love, fast beats in an action scene get us into an excited mood. Classical music in a hotel bar lets you relax, relaxed sounds help you meditate and music at a fast pace while jogging.

So different types of music trigger different emotions. At the same time, this means that you can determine for yourself which feelings are triggered by carefully choosing music. Many studies in music research have shown that this mood regulation is one of the most important motivators for us to listen to certain pieces of music. For this purpose, songs are chosen that suit our own mood - but often also songs that are supposed to influence our mood in a certain direction. Using an example: Researchers at Cornell University in New York examined millions of online Spotify streams to reveal daily and seasonal patterns. Here it became clear that relaxed music is heard in the evening, while energetic songs predominate during the day. Think about it: Don't you have songs that you only hear during a certain part of the day or the favorite songs that bring back certain memories in you?

Lively songs obviously lift the mood. But melancholy and calm sounds can also have a positive effect on people. Interestingly, listeners do not feel depressed by melancholy songs, but rather feel nostalgic feelings and thus bring memories back into consciousness. So it is not automatically the case that happy music makes us happy and sad music pulls us down.


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If you are now in the mood for music that makes you happy - take a look at Spotify, there are lots of "Happy Music" playlists. For example the “good mood” list from Filtr.

Playlist: Filtr "Good Mood"

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Because of its mood-enhancing effects, music can even be used to treat depression. Music therapists use even more fields of application for music.

Music as a remedy: how does a music therapist work?

Music is also used specifically as a form of therapy. In music therapy, it is used specifically to restore mental, physical or mental health. Music can help access emotions and memories that patients cannot express with words. Especially for people who have difficulty speaking or who cannot communicate well, music can help establish contact with the therapist or other group members.

Music therapy can be used for mental disorders such as depression or anxiety disorders, but it can also be helpful for dementia, autism or physical illnesses. For this purpose, instruments are tried out, sounds are generated and music is played together. Discussions with the patient about the feelings and memories triggered are then essential.

There are exceptions to all the positive effects of music: Music psychology has found that, under certain circumstances, music can also have a negative effect. When a patient is still in an acutely traumatic state, certain sounds can intensify the negative feelings. Even with tinnitus patients, care must be taken that music therapy does not represent an additional burden.

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Singing is a good stress killer

Music is good - but singing itself has an even stronger effect. It not only lifts your spirits, but can also be beneficial: Singing with others strengthens the sense of community, promotes your own learning processes and gets you in a good mood. Singing also helps against stress, because warbling for 20 minutes can increase the release of the feel-good hormone oxytocin and at the same time reduce the stress hormone cortisol, as a study by the University of Regensburg shows.

If you now feel like singing with others - in many cities there are pub choirs or other amateur choirs that you can join at any time, even without prior knowledge and extraordinary talent. Because the good news is: Researchers are certain that everyone is musical from the ground up. So no excuse!

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Marie-Theres Rüttiger

Marie-Theres is an online editor for health and insurance topics at ottonova. She designs the editorial plan, researches and primarily writes about (e-) health and innovation that make life better.

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