Music Madness

Music is magic. The power to get an entire room of people flailing their bodies around as if nobody was watching can only be explained by a certain wizardry that music possesses. 

Music evokes many feelings; happy, sad, nostalgic, you name it. But when music has so much power over the mind, it can become detrimental to one’s long-term mental well-being if used the wrong way.

“I listen to mainly pop music but it’s a mix between upbeat and slower music,” said sophomore Niti Shah. “Whenever I listen to my slower music compared to my more upbeat music, I usually feel more sad or depressed because of the lyrics of the song.”

Music itself has control over mood. A lot of effort is put into curating the perfect Spotify playlist for every situation. You can find playlists on Spotify for when you and your friends are driving in the summer with the windows down, for when you need workout hype and there are even playlists for when you are ugly crying in your bedroom alone at three a.m. 

There are plenty of studies that show the benefits of listening to and playing music, but few people have tried to figure out exactly what listening to certain types of music does to one’s brain.

In a study by Elvira Battico, a researcher on topics of music and neuroscience, she said, “Recently, music psychologists observed that people with depression or specific personality traits, such as openness to experience and nostalgia-proneness, possess a greater tendency to prefer listening to sad music.”  

Even though there are numerous studies that support the idea that listening to and playing music is beneficial, it is important to recognize that music can also have a negative impact on our mental well-being. By understanding the impact that music can have on our mood and brain, we can make informed decisions about the type of music we listen to and how we use it to help us cope with life’s challenges.

“Music can enhance my mood because like if I am feeling hype and listen to more upbeat music then it makes me more hype,” sophomore Aubrey Zvovushe-Ramos disagreed. “Even if I am upset and listen to sad music it lets me, like, get all my emotions out, you know?”

Music can be helpful in making people feel understood, but the problem arises when listening to this music becomes constant. 

It draws similarities to Pavlov’s study of conditioning dogs. When a routine is formed where a bell is rung when it’s time for a dog to eat, the dog will salivate at the sound of the bell, even if no food is around. 

Similarly, when humans feel sad and listen to depressing music, they will become upset upon hearing it simply from being conditioned. If your music taste consists entirely of depressing songs, you are going to trick your brain into feeling upset even if you feel happy.

 The short-term effects of music can be harmful to everyday life, but historically music has gone as far as to be used as a form of psychological torture. Among some of the worst imaginable forms of torment such as waterboarding and sleep deprivation, the CIA has admitted to using loud music to break prisoners. 

Some songs that were used in Guantanamo Bay in 2008, were “Enter Sandman” by Metallica, the Barney and Friends theme song and a commercial jingle for Meow Mix. Though most of the music used was heavy metal or painfully catchy and not sad, this still displays that music morphs the mind and can be powerful enough to break the strongest of detainees.

Detainees in Guantanamo Bay

Ultimately, if you want to use music as a tool for healing and therapy, you have to be intentional about the type of music you listen to and the context in which you listen to it. By understanding the impact that music can have on our emotions and our mental health, we can remain in the know about the role that music plays in our lives. In a world where we have easy access to all different types of music, it is important to recognize that you pick what you put into your mind. 

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