- Music can energize you, lift a bad mood — and may also boost immune health and lower blood pressure.
- Music with a slow, steady tempo and fewer notes can also improve focus or help you relax before bed.
- You can access music for free via YouTube, your local library, or apps like Pandora and Spotify.
If you’ve ever welled up with tears, felt a wave of nostalgia, or suddenly experienced a burst of energy while listening to a song, you’re likely well aware of the power music can have on your mood and emotions.
Music doesn’t just offer an outlet for processing your feelings. The lyrics of many songs also touch on relatable themes like falling in love, going through a breakup, losing a loved one, or other life challenges. These songs can offer reassurance you’re not alone in your experiences and provide a much-needed sense of connection to others.
What’s more, research also suggests music can benefit your mental health and well-being in a variety of different ways.
Here are seven potential benefits to expect — plus some tips on how to integrate music into your everyday life.
1. It can help you feel less pain
Another small study examined how music might help people with fibromyalgia — a condition known to cause widespread pain throughout the body. Participants who listened to music daily for four weeks experienced significant reductions in pain.
How to try it: To reap these potential pain-reducing benefits, consider making a playlist of feel-good tunes that you continually update. You could also try using a beat-making app like Groovepad to create custom songs you enjoy.
2. It may boost immune health
Researchers found that group drumming can be especially beneficial for improving immune function. But they also said any musical activities that provide the opportunity for socialization and creative self-expression may help support immune health.
According to another small study, when people with cancer sang in a group choir for one hour, they showed significant increases in cytokines — proteins that play a critical role in immune system functioning.
How to try it: You might already make it a point to sing along with your favorite songs — whether at a local karaoke night, in the shower, or in the car.
But if singing’s not your jam, you could also join a club or class where you can interact with fellow music lovers. Apps like Playlist allow you to meet people with similar music tastes, join group chats, and collaborate on playlists in real-time.
3. It may help ease anxiety
A 2021 review suggests music can help reduce symptoms of anxiety.
“Music is known to lower your heart rate while also reducing levels of cortisol, known as the stress hormone,” Glynn says.
Music may alleviate many different types of anxiety. For example:
How to try it: In order to ease your anxiety using music, it’s important to cater to your own unique preferences. While jazz music may help relax some people, for instance, others may find the spontaneity and inconsistency only provokes more anxiety.
So, pay attention to what genres and types of songs make you feel most calm and at ease, from upbeat pop songs to classical concertos.
4. It can help lower blood pressure
A small 2020 study considered the benefits of music for 30 young adults at risk for high blood pressure. Half the participants listened to relaxing piano and flute music for 30 minutes daily, five days a week for four weeks — and by the end of the study, they experienced significant reductions in systolic blood pressure, an important measure of heart health.
How to try it: Implementing instrumental music into your meditations — another practice shown to lower blood pressure — may prove particularly helpful. Or, try spending 10-15 minutes a day just listening to calming music with no distractions — for example, while you’re taking a bath, or lying down right before sleep.
5. It could improve your mood
A 2021 review found music can lift your mood by promoting feelings of nostalgia and relaxation while reducing feelings of distress and depression. Researchers noted that many different types of music-related activities can yield these benefits, including:
- Intentional music listening
- Playing an instrument
- Group singing
- Shared music listening, like attending a concert
You may have even experienced these benefits firsthand, if you found music helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a 2021 study, researchers surveyed people from four countries to explore the ways they used music during COVID-19 lockdowns. They found that people who experienced anxiety and depression and felt more personally affected by the pandemic were more likely to use music to help manage their emotions and mood.
Most participants said listening to music helped reduce distress and improve overall well-being — and people who listened to softer, more acoustic music reported the most benefits.
How to try it: Beyond listening to music on your own to bust a bad mood, you might also try sharing your music listening experience — whether by attending live shows with friends or listening to your favorite albums at home with friends and family. After all, feeling socially connected can also help improve your mood.
6. It can promote better sleep
Experts believe music enhances sleep by:
- Helping regulate the stress hormone, cortisol
- Calming parts of the autonomic nervous system, which can help slow your breathing and heart rate and lower blood pressure
- Distracting you from troubling thoughts so you can relax
According to a 2020 study examining specific types of music that help students get better sleep, the most effective music features:
- Lower notes and stronger bass
- A slower tempo with non-danceable rhythms
- More sustained musical notes
How to try it: Try creating a playlist of soothing songs with around 60 beats per minute that you can listen to for 15 to 30 minutes before bedtime.
Just aim to avoid songs that bring up strong emotional reactions, since these may make it harder for you to fall asleep. Instead, opt for songs that feel neutral and not too stimulating — and play your tunes at a volume just loud enough to hear the main elements of the music.
7. It may boost your concentration, focus, and memory
Research suggests listening to music might help you concentrate and retain information, whether you’re studying for a test or focusing on a work project.
The type of music you listen to appears to matter, however — certain kinds may actually distract you and disrupt your concentration.
Classical music appears to have the most benefits:
- In one study, college students who listened to this genre during a lecture learned more than those who listened to the same lecture without music.
- In another study, listening to classical music in the background helped older adults perform better on memory and processing tasks.
Instead, stick with slow-paced instrumental music — like classical, electronic, or ambient — with a steady rhythm.
The best way to get the most out of your playlist ultimately depends on your goals and preferences.
- If you want to enhance your focus while working, Hsu advises using headphones to drown out any other potentially distracting background noise.
- When using music to help you fall asleep, Glynn says it’s much better to use a small speaker, as earbuds and headphones can cause ear health issues if you fall asleep wearing them.
- Upbeat, danceable tunes might work well for lifting your mood or energizing you — but slower-paced music tends to do more to relax you and soothe anxious thoughts.
That said, Glynn says everyone reacts to music differently. So, it may help to start paying attention to how different genres and songs make you feel.
If you notice a specific type of music makes you feel irritated or restless, or takes a toll on your mood in any way, it’s probably not working for you, according to Hsu.
You can access music for free by:
- Borrowing CDs at your local library
- Creating custom playlists and streaming your favorite songs and artists using apps like Pandora and Spotify
- Checking out YouTube‘s large library of instrumental and meditation music
- Streaming radio shows and DJ mixes at Mixcloud
- Listening to personalized radio channels at AccuRadio
Music has vast and varied potential perks for your mental health and overall well-being. Improving mood and sleep, reducing pain and anxiety, lowering blood pressure, and supporting immune health are just a few examples.
You don’t need to play an instrument, sing, or have any musical talents to reap these rewards, either — even just listening to music alone or with loved ones can have benefits.
Different kinds of music can affect people in different ways, so pay attention to how you feel mentally and physically after listening to certain songs or genres.
If a particular kind of music doesn’t help — or makes you feel worse — you can always try something different. With countless genres to choose from, and so many ways to access music for free, it’s easy to sample different types until you find something that works for you.