Your Music Says A Lot About Your Mental Health


By Kirsten Cowart 

Brain imaging technology can reveal how your brain responds to different types of music. What research and therapists alike have found through such technology as well as observation is that your emotions are greatly affected by the types of music that you listen to.

Music And Emotions

Being able to regulate your emotions is an important part of mental health. If you have a hard time regulating your emotions, then that is often labeled as a psychiatric mood disorder such as depression. Therapists and other self-help tools are designed to help you process your emotions and gives you the tools you need to manage them moving forward.

Therapists have found that music is a powerful part of emotional regulation. They have been able to use music as a tool to help set a better mood for people with different mental/emotional issues.

Many people use music on their own as a way to process and regulate their emotions. So far, not many studies have been done to study the specifics about how music affects your long-term mental health.

Music And Mental Health

At Aarhus University in Denmark and the Centre for Interdisciplinary Music Research at the University of Jyväskylä, they decided to see how music and your music listening habits affect your mental health. Their plan was to test people’s emotional response to music and look at neuroimaging as well as behavioral data.

“Some ways of coping with negative emotion, such as rumination, which means continually thinking over negative things, are linked to poor mental health. We wanted to learn whether there could be similar negative effects of some styles of music listening,” explains music therapist Emily Carlson, the main author of the study.

Each person was assessed on many different levels of mental health, including emotions, anxiety, depression and neuroticism and that data was compared against how much and what type of music they listened to.

Negative Music Was Linked To Anxiety And Neuroticism

According to the research, those participants who listened to aggressive music in order to express their feelings (especially males) were more likely to show signs of neuroticism and anxiety.  

“This style of listening results in the feeling of expression of negative feelings, not necessarily improving the negative mood,” says co-author Dr. Suvi Saarikallio, who developed the Music in Mood Regulation (MMR) test.

To track the subconscious emotions, researchers also looked at the neural activity of the participants as they listened to sad, happy and fearful-sounding music. Males who listened to music to express their negative feelings had less neural activity in the medial prefrontal cortex of the brain.

Females who used music to distract themselves from their negative emotions had increased neural activity in the same area.

“The mPFC is active during emotion regulation,” according to senior author and prof. Elvira Brattico, “These results show a link between music listening styles and mPFC activation, which could mean that certain listening styles have long-term effects on the brain.”

“We hope our research encourages music therapists to talk with their clients about their music use outside the session,” concludes Emily Carlson, “and encourages everyone to think about how the different ways they use music might help or harm their own well-being.”

What music are you drawn to? Let us know in the comments below.


Source: Academy of Finland. “Music listening habits tell about mental health.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 October 2015. <>.lleader_34 (1)

Kirsten Campbell
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Kirsten Campbell

Kirsten Cowart is a writer and researcher that has worked in the spiritual, mental health and medical fields.Kirsten enjoys studying and experiencing the benefits of yoga, meditation, nutrition, herbalism, organic gardening and alternative health.She worked hard in 2014 losing over 40 lbs. and has since maintained a healthy lifestyle.Follow her to learn more about her journey on Twitter, Facebook & Youtube!
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