Science Explains Why We Listen to Music When We’re Happy/Sad/Nervous/or Single Again


woman-listening-to-musicWhat disco and radio disc-jockeys already know full well is that certain types of music are relevant and appropriate for certain events, times of day and moods. You’d be shocked to hear Madonna playing at a funeral or heavy metal on a popular radio station during a morning commute.

Our mood largely determines what kind of music we choose to listen to at any given time. All of us have our go-to favorite songs and artists for when we’re working (maybe Mozart makes you work harder), crying over a break-up (Coldplay, obviously), or celebrating a happy moment (with Queen Bee).

What you might not realize is that there is a scientific reason for your mood-based musical choices. Let’s check out why certain types of music provide the best listening fodder for particular parts of our day.

Sexy time

Studies prove what we’ve thought all along: music is a kind of aphrodisiac. According to a study conducted by Dr. Daniel Müllensiefen, “It is no surprise that so many respondents claimed to find music arousing in the bedroom…From neuro-scientific research we know that music can activate the same pleasure centers of the brain that also respond to much less abstract rewards such as food, drugs or indeed sex.”

Sweatin’ to the oldies

Anyone who spends any continuous, repeated time in the gym knows that music is a crucial part of their routine. But why? Ferris Jabr, of Scientific American magazine, explains that the human body is able to synchronize itself to certain rhythms. According to Jabr, humans are instinctively programmed to dance, and therefore the two most important aspects of music during a workout are tempo and rhythm response.

At rest

As it turns out, music can actually enhance brain power during sleep. Dr. Jan Born, of the University of Tubingen (Germany), publicized a study showing that participants who slept under music-enhanced conditions performed significantly higher on tests afterwards, as compared to a control group. Born explained, “The sound stimulation is effective only when the sounds occur in synchrony with the on-going slow oscillation rhythm during sleep…We present the acoustic stimuli whenever a slow oscillation ‘up state’ was upcoming, and in this way we were able to strengthen the slow oscillation, so that it showed higher amplitude and occurred for longer periods.”

Before a date

If you often listen to music before an important business meeting, during a commute, or before a big date, you might want to be careful about what you choose to hear. A study conducted by University of Nevada proved that music, and particularly tempo, can affect a person’s stress levels. Specifically, mellow music with a slower tempo will promote composure and calm before a big event. Try some jazz – it’s commonly linked with stress relief and increased creativity.

After a break-up

Who hasn’t found themselves suddenly balling, while listening to a sad track after a recent breakup. You probably assume that “sad” music only drags you deeper into the misery you’re feeling. Not so. Amazingly, research conducted at Berlin’s Freie Universität shows that when sad people listen to sad music – they tend to recall the happier moments of heir lost love. “The most frequent emotion evoked was nostalgia, which is a bittersweet emotion — it’s more complex and it’s partly positive,” explained Liila Taruffi, one of the researchers. “This helps explain why sad music is appealing and pleasurable for people.”

So whatever your state of mind, there’s always a suitable soundtrack to give you a boost. The next time you’re feeling a little fragile, try some music therapy to lift your spirits! How does music help you in your everyday life? Let us know in the comments section below.