emotional wellbeing

Written By: DiveThru Team

Reviewed By: Natalie Asayag MSW, LCSW


The Mental Health Benefits of Music: Lyrics & Emotions

PUBLISHED Jul 23rd, 2020 & UPDATED ON Mar 3rd, 2023

What if we told you we found something that could transport you back in time? No, we’re not talking about a backyard cardboard time machine – although that would be cool. What if we told you that the superpower we’re talking about is music? Yep. Music. And what if we told you while you’re being transported back in time, you’re also experiencing the mental health benefits of music?

Think about it.

Have you ever been jamming out to your favourite playlist when all of a sudden that one song comes on? Immediately, you’re back with your friends on summer vacation, windows rolled down, singing at the top of your lungs, cheeks sore from smiling so big.

Maybe you’re taken back to your wedding day. Your partner is by your side as the sparklers twinkle and you dance your first dance. You’re surrounded by family and friends. You feel warm and safe and full of love.

That’s the (super)power of music. 

On top of providing entertainment, enjoyment, and comfort, music also has important impacts on mental health and wellbeing. Talk about a superpower.  

According to John Hopkins Medicine, “research has shown that listening to music can reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and pain as well as improve sleep quality, mood, mental alertness, and memory.”

Ok…we’re listening. Any other benefits of music to know about? YOU BET.

Music Reduces Stress

Listening to music is like a workout for your entire brain and autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system plays a key role in the human stress response, which explains why music can help reduce stress.  

What are some everyday examples of how listening to music can help reduce stress, you ask?

During your morning routine — it’s sure to be a great day if it starts with some upbeat, motivational music.

During your commute — combat bad drivers with good music.

While cooking or cleaning — these will feel less like chores when you have the backdrop of some nice music. If your broom becomes a guitar or your spatula becomes a microphone we won’t judge.

While eating — playing instrumental or classical music while eating can make you more relaxed, which makes it easier to digest food.

Before bed — music can help you relax and slow down your breathing, making it easier to fall asleep.

Music can be a backdrop for almost any activity, but it’s important to find the right genre or playlist for the situation you find yourself in. Loud, intense music isn’t good right before bed and classical music likely won’t get you motivated to run 10km.

Can anything get you motivated to run 10km? If so, please send suggestions.

The point is, be willing to change it up and experiment until you find what works for you!

Music Therapy Helps You Process Emotions

Another way music can improve mental health and wellbeing is through music therapy. For example, it has been used to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety in those suffering from neurological conditions. Music therapy can involve a variety of different elements including lyric analysis, improvisation music playing, active music listening, and songwriting. Because people can connect with music so well, music therapy allows them to process emotions and communicate in new and helpful ways. 

At DiveThru, we understand the power of words. Lyrics are no different. Have you ever stopped in your tracks because it felt like the lyrics you just heard were taken straight from your soul?? Have you felt better understood by the words in a song than by actual human beings? Ok ok, we know that the words in the song were written by actual human beings but you get the point. 

Lyrics allow us to connect because they often describe what we’re feeling better than we ourselves can. In the same way that writing out your feelings in a journal helps to process them, listening to music can help make sense of your emotions, too. A lot of times you might not even realize what you’re feeling until you hear it sung back to you. Then, suddenly, it all makes sense.

Music Empowers Your Journaling Practice

The next time you hear lyrics that really hit home, take a minute to write them down in your journal or in the notes on your phone. Reflect on how they make you feel and why they spoke to you. This reflection will likely lead to some insight on what you’re feeling in the moment. Download the DiveThru app so you’re ready to go the next time you need a quick journaling session. 

Lyrics can also impact action, so choose your music wisely. Listening to songs with positive messages can inspire you to take positive action, just as listening to songs with negative lyrics can have the opposite effect on your wellbeing. For example, according to Patricia Fox Ransom (Master’s of Applied Positive Psychology), a song like “Brave” by Sara Bareilles “encourages people to have hope and chase their dreams” (p. 18). According to another study from her secondary research, “listening to songs with pro-social lyrics increases empathy, which leads to helping behavior in other settings” (p. 18).

Because of this effect on wellbeing, something as simple as your background music may have a significant impact on your daily life.  Why not take full advantage of the benefits of music?

Think about the songs that you listen to and ask yourself this. Are they promoting healthy behaviours and mindsets? Or are they contributing to negative thoughts and reduced wellbeing? Feel free to use these questions as journaling prompts to dive deeper into what music means to you. You may discover that it’s impacting your life in more ways than you could’ve imagined. 

Music is a secret superpower for the promotion of mental wellbeing. Grab your phone, pull up your fave Spotify playlist and get into your feels!


Read More: 7 Helpful Ways to Take a Social Media Break, 5 Signs of Emotional Abuse & What to Do Next,