A person wearing a Jansport backpack is sitting. There is a vinyl across from them.

Can You Feel the Beat? How Music Can Improve Mental Health

Kelly Meehan Brown Oct 25, 2023

It happens to the best of us—one day you wake up, and you just can’t seem to shake those heavy clouds hanging over you. Been there, done that, got the empty pints of ice cream to prove it! 

No matter what the cause, there’s an unlikely ally at your disposal that can help switch up your mood at the flick of a… well, switch. Think Taylor Swift, The Weeknd, Harry Styles—okay, not them directly (although wouldn’t that be nice?) but the thing they’re most known for: their music.

Yes, studies show that music really can improve your mood and help snap you out of a funk. Think about a time when a particular playlist blasting from your Fifth Avenue Fanny Pack on the way to school had you pumped for the day, or maybe a new ballad by your favorite artist moved you to tears. Music is powerful and listening to some of your fave tunes has a whole host of psychological and physical benefits. Let’s take a look at just how music can help with mental health.


Music Can Improve Your Mood

For me, it’s kind of impossible to feel sad when my fave’s music is playing. And there’s a scientific reason for it. When you’re in a bad mood and you want to listen to something that matches, it can feel super cathartic. But then if the shuffle plays something you love that’s a little more upbeat next, you may feel that sadness slipping away. This is a mood-boosting tool called the iso-principle, which shows that slowly introducing happier music can have a positive impact on your overall emotional state. So, next time you’re down in the dumps, make the conscious decision to play happier music and see what effect it has on you. It can’t hurt to try, right?


Music Can Reduce Stress and Help You Relax

Meditation and yoga anyone? I can’t explain to you how much more at peace I feel when I can sneak in a quick daily meditation or pack up my favorite yoga outfit in my Half Pint Mini Backpack and head to a yoga class. And what do both of these things have in common? The calming, meditative music! In fact, studies show that the rhythm of this kind of music can reduce stress by slowing your heart rate, which can help you relax and help you recover quicker from a stressor in the future. If like me, stress has an impact on your psyche, consider a rhythmic playlist to help mellow you out.


Music Can Help You Sleep Better

Whenever I’m not feeling my best, I often look at the night’s sleep before and wouldn’t you know it—my FitBit tells me I slept terribly. Insomnia impacts people of all ages, and also has a direct impact on your mental health. Thankfully, there’s a musical solve for this, too! One study found that students who listened to music at bedtime had a significant improvement in the quality of sleep over those who listened to nothing. I lean more towards audiobooks myself, but listening to something to help you drift off is a great way to help guarantee you’ll wake up feeling that bit fresher. 


Music Can Improve Your Concentration and Improve Productivity

Sometimes, you’ll have deadlines to meet when all you really want to do is lay in bed. But the stress of having to meet those deadlines often made me feel worse. When I was in college and felt this way, I found that blasting some dance music for a few minutes helped get me hyped to tackle the work. But what helped me complete it? Playing lyric-less music at a low volume in the background as I worked. Turns out that choosing the right music, at the right time, for the right task, can have a significant impact on your productivity. Play around with this to see what works for you and when—you won’t know ‘til you try. 


Music Can Improve Your Memory

Are you ever just minding your own business, when all of a sudden a jingle you learned in the fifth grade comes into your mind, uninvited? Once again, music shows its power through helping with memory. Indeed, a tune can not only help with recovering lost memories, but can help us establish new ones, too. 


If you’re ever feeling a little disconnected, pack a picnic in the Big Break Lunch Bag, head to the park and play a song from your childhood—or learn a new one—to help you feel more grounded in the moment.