Why do certain songs make us feel happy on an emotional and physical level? The answer may lie in the hard-wiring of our brains and our connection to the music we’ve listened to in our lives. It’s no secret that music can make us happy, but how it does this is fascinating.
Scientists at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital at McGill University have studied how music affects the body on a physiological level. They found that when listening to music dopamine is released which then interacts with the reward part of our brain. When this happens a person may experience chills or physical reactions such as shortness of breath, goosebumps, and feeling a shiver down the spine. Through brain imaging it has been shown that more dopamine is released when listening to happy songs as opposed to neutral or sad ones.
According to neurological studies music begins having an emotional effect on the brain at a very early age. Babies as young as five months react to happy songs, and at nine months can be affected by sad songs. While this distinction shows how we learn about different kinds of music early on it’s important to note that happy music is deemed beneficial to the body and mind.
Music therapy is based on this concept and has many useful applications for both the young and old. According to researchers at Cal State hospitalized children who had access to musical instruments during playtime were happier than when they only had toys and puzzles to entertain themselves. When looking at music therapy for the elderly it’s been documented that the presence of music can help with depression and loneliness. Music has also been found to boost a patient’s immune system after surgery, lower blood pressure for cardiac patients, and reduce stress in pregnant women.
However, it’s not necessary that you be sick or depressed to enjoy the happiness music can bring. Many use music to as a way to escape to distant happy memories or to retreat from the business of daily life to reduce stress and increase happiness. Make music a part of your day to create a bond with those around you and be sure to listen to the music that will put a smile on your face.
Is there a link between music and happiness?