Research has shown that listening to music can help support mental health and lift moods. In one study, levels of dopamine – a chemical in the brain that has a key role in setting good moods – were up to 9% higher when volunteers were listening to music they enjoyed.
Similarly, in 2020 a group called the Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) released a new report on World Music Day that showed music's positive effect on emotional wellbeing, including decreasing anxiety and managing stress.
A 2019 study by the British Academy of Sound Therapy (BAST), commissioned by Deezer, found that just five minutes of music each day can help listeners feel happier – but the ‘recommended daily amount’ is 78 minutes of different types of music, for a balanced audio diet.
The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is 'loneliness', as the Mental Health Foundation looks to break the stigma around the issue. Over recent years loneliness and isolation have moved further into focus, with connection to community and people vital for good mental and physical health. Music can offer a ready-made community, a way to share experiences with friends and family, and a way to bring people together. Get your favourite song on and tell your friends about why you love it.
For an extra boost, get music involved in your trips outdoors, with exercise and socialising both key ways to support your mental health. Go for a run in your local park with an upbeat playlist in your ears, or catch up with friends at a picnic with a Bluetooth speaker to share what you’ve been listening to lately.
If you’d rather enjoy great audio at home, one of the recommendations in the GCBH report included ‘deep’ or active listening. Instead of putting on music as background noise, set aside time to concentrate on what you hear. If you have a record player, pick an album that means a lot to you and listen to it from start to finish. Think about what you love about it, what it reminds you of, and even have a singalong if you want to.
Radio and podcasts can provide another voice in the room if you’re feeling lonely or isolated. And if you want some visuals to go along with that audio, you can put your favourite film on for a bit of escapism.
Much as we all love it, we know that music isn’t going to be a cure-all for mental health issues. There are services that offer help and support if you’re having problems. Find out more at www.mentalhealth.org.uk