Music stimulates the part of the brain that produces the dopamine hormone. This hormone affects emotional behavior and mood. The influence of music is both behavioral and neural. That is, this means that music not only affects the mood but also affects what we cannot control ourselves.Music is not only able to affect your mood — listening to particularly happy or sad music can even change the way we perceive the world, according to researchers from the University of Groningen.
Music and mood are closely interrelated — listening to a sad or happy song on the radio can make you feel more sad or happy. However, such mood changes not only affect how you feel, they also change your perception. For example, people will recognize happy faces if they are feeling happy themselves.
A new study by researcher Jacob Jolij and student Maaike Meurs of the Psychology Department of the University of Groningen shows that music has an even more dramatic effect on perception: even if there is nothing to see, people sometimes still see happy faces when they are listening to happy music and sad faces when they are listening to sad music.
Research has found that when a subject listens to music that gives them the chills, it triggers a release of dopamine to the brain. And if you don’t know, dopamine is a kind of naturally occurring happy chemical we receive as part of a reward system. Now here’s the really interesting part: Dopamine is not only released during peak musical moments but also when we anticipate those moments. It’s like our brain is rewarding us for knowing a really great chorus is just about to hit!
Hearing a song from our adolescence brings back a flood of feelings and memories. By why do those songs have such a strong hold on our emotional core? Our brains develop rapidly between ages 12 and 22 (there’s a reason they call it our “formative” years), so when we make a connection to a song during that time, it’s a strong neurological connection. The massive rush of hormones associated with our pubescent years tells our brains that everything is super important, and that includes whatever music we’re listening to at the time. That’s why when we hear a true throwback to our high school days, it’s a powerful thing.
The impact of positive thinking has been a subject of focus for psychologists and self-help gurus for ages now, but what about positive listening? Is there such a thing as intentionally listening to positive-sounding music to boost your mood? We already know music that gives us the chills helps to release dopamine, but a separate study found that people who intentionally listened to upbeat music improved their moods and happiness in just two weeks. When a separate group was instructed to listen to different music that wasn’t deemed positive sounding, they didn’t experience the same mood-boosting effect. So the next time you’re blue, maybe put on a song that will make you smile.