Home » Music benefits mental health and encourages prosocial behavior

Music benefits mental health and encourages prosocial behavior

Posted on: July 25th, 2016 in Coping, Recovery No Comments


It’s been said, “When you are happy, you enjoy the music; when you are sad, you understand the lyrics.”

Truly there are few unifiers as deep and timeless as music. Whether you relate to the songwriter, performing artist or fellow fans, music has the power to help listeners breathe peace, create a space for release, summon inspiration, cut through pretense and cast a spotlight on the soul – oftentimes unbidden.

Fascinating research has connected simple rhythm and melody to brain functions and human connections:

  • Humankind has an innate neural circuit completely dedicated to music and speech complimented by melody
  • Music effects on a patient spur changes not so far off from traditional medicine; music can literally serve as supplemental medicine
  • Listening to music or singing together directly activates brain chemicals in tandem; the neurochemicals have a part in connection and closeness as endorphins are released
  • Endorphin release can be measured by a subsequent spike in the pain threshold; researchers discovered drumming, dancing or singing all augment pain thresholds
  • Like Dr. Seuss’ Whoville come to life, collected data confirms that the bigger the choir, the more significant the increase in endorphins and sentiments of mutual closeness
  • One study revealed the human brain releases dopamine at the emotional climax of our favorite songs

Music serves as the background melody to the seasons in life, and certain tunes become the theme song to personal milestones. Shared events carry often unforgettable playlists that loved ones and lost ones alike can revisit. Weddings, funerals, graduations and mixtapes from exes all create a musical reactivity within the brain and cultivate group affiliation, research supports.

Music builds bonds

“Some researchers believe that it’s the rhythm in music that helps us to synch up our brains and coordinate our body movements with others, and that’s how the effects can be translated to a whole group. Research supports this thesis, by showing how coordinating movement through music increases our sense of community and prosocial behavior,” an article out of UC Berkeley explains.

  • A University of Bologna, Italy, study demonstrated toddlers synchronized movements to a drumbeat more closely when mirroring another human over drum audio alone; music shared mutually gives context as well as stimulation
  • Elsewhere, an analysis of adults engaging in a task requiring group coordination showed adults who listened to rhythmic music completed the exercise most efficiently, compared to groups working to “white noise” or nonrhythmic music

The benefits of musical collaboration

“The process of creating music builds trust and cohesion,” says guitarist, songwriter and producer Wesley Geer, who was part of the band Korn and most recently founded a music therapy treatment program called Rock to Recovery. “Clients learn to rely on each other. They learn about each other; learn each other’s histories. This unity coupled with creative endeavor instills confidence. Clients reclaim their self-respect.”

Rock to Recovery is now an incorporated feature in Sovereign Health’s San Clemente, Rancho San Diego, Los Angeles and Palm Springs facilities. During a session, clients write the songs, rehearse, perform and record, with guidance of Rock to Recovery staff.

Greer says the key is the music group; the motley gathering of those with musical talent and those simply seeking therapeutic release, all bound by recovery. They alone fuse the bond and in turn, that bond creates a safe space of harmony and empathy. “We give the clients an opportunity to share their heart and soul together and feel good, while tacking the toughest topics,” he affirms.

Sovereign Health understands that, to be long-lasting, rehabilitation must be customized to an individual’s learning style, degree of trauma or disorder and expressive interests. That’s why we combine detox and residential treatment with cognitive and alternative therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy, yoga, equine therapy, art therapy and now Rock to Recovery.

About the author

Sovereign Health staff writer Kristin Currin-Sheehan is a mindful spirit swimming in metaphysical pools with faith as her compass. Her cover: a 30s-something Cinderella breadwinner of an all-sport blended family. Her repertoire includes writing poetry, lifestyle articles and TV news; editing, radio production and on-camera reporting. For more information and other inquiries about this media, contact the author at news@sovhealth.com.

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