Friday, November 11, 2011

Why Music Makes Us Happy - Happiness Series

How much do we actually depend on the things we take for granted? In “Bee Movie” we saw how much the whole world changed just because the bees no longer pollinated the flowers. We may believe that it is the greater things we depend on to survive, but actually, small things disappearing from our lives have great consequences.

I am going to take a look at why we need these things and how they affect us. We need to understand how and why we are affected by these things in order to live a better life. We also need to learn how to take advantage of what makes us feel good so that we have a method for making a gloomy day bright in order to feel even better!

I will be writing a series of posts about just this. Once in a while I will post a different article concerning things that we depend on for happiness, why we need it and how to get even happier!


Why MUSIC makes us happy
Music is something that we can live without, but many people say they can’t imagine a day without it. Music has an affect on all of us. Music doesn’t even necessarily have to be a song, but can also be sounds in the environment around us, or someone’s voice. Music certainly affects us, but why and how?

First of all, all of us associate something with the sounds we hear, which may cause us to feel sad or happy. Here, the music is connected to a memory.

Let’s look at listening to music from a biological perspective. We depend on food, sleep and reproduction to survive, and music is not something we necessarily depend on. When we eat, sleep or reproduce our brain releases the “feel good” neurochemical dopamine, which we trigger when experiencing pleasure and reward.

The same chemical is actually released when listening to music as well.

A study was conducted by researchers at McGill University in Canada where they started with 217 participants, and narrowed it down to 8 who kept responding the same way when they listened to music regardless of the listening environment.
For the study, the researchers combined different techniques to scan the brains of the 8 participants whilst they listened to music. The participants also completed a questionnaire where they stated how pleasurable they found the music.
The results showed that when we first anticipate and then experience a pleasurable response while listening to music, our brain reacts in specific ways to release dopamine.
This study is very fascinating because it may be the first study to show that an abstract reward, listening to music, as apposed to a tangible reward, for example eating and sleeping, releases dopamine. Abstract rewards have been considered to be processed on a more cognitive level; however, this study shows that our ancient reward circuits may be involved.
The study also shows us that we have a shared neural network involving tangible and abstract rewards.
Note that this will not affect your day-to-day listening on average. However, when you experience an emotion while listening to music, ancient reward circuits are flooding your brain with dopamine, the “feel good” chemical.


Here are five ways to change, validate and challenge music’s role as “therapy”-->

1.   Listen to music that enhances your current mood. Meaning that if you’re sad listen to sad music, etc. This will enhance how you feel.
2.   Listen to music that changes your current mood. This will change your mood and maybe brighten your day if you’re down.
3.   Be aware of what you listen to. Don’t put yourself in an environment surrounded by sounds that are too harsh and affect your emotional state.
4.   Listen to music actively. Pay attention and actually listen to the lyrics, melody or beat. Also stop and listen to yourself, and how you feel when you pay attention to the different aspects of the music.
5.   Listen to music outside your comfort zone. If you challenge yourself you may attract some surprising benefits!


What makes you happy?
What music gets you in a good mood?
Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

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