Why music is great for your mental health

Last month, researchers found that music releases dopamine, the feel-good chemical in your brain. It also found that dopamine was up to 9% higher when volunteers listened to music that they enjoyed. It may be obvious to us, but it is strong evidence for the link between music and mental wellbeing.

As part of our research efforts, we ran a simple survey asking people how they use music to boost their mood at work. We surveyed over a thousand people and surprisingly only a third of people use music to give them a lift when they feel down at work.

It may be because people generally can’t listen to music at work — only half of the employers surveyed allowed their staff to listen to music at work. It may also be because of the working environment: if you work directly with customers, drive or are in an open-plan office, you can’t really listen to music while you work.

I love to listen to music at work, but we have an open plan office which makes it hard. It’s tough to find the right balance between enjoying music and disturbing people. And then of course there is the most controversial question of all — what to play?

Researchers have also found that music therapy can be a safe and effective treatment for a variety of disorders, including depression. One study found that music therapy was a safe, low-risk way to reduce depression and anxiety in patients suffering from neurological conditions such as dementia, stroke, and Parkinson’s disease.

While music can certainly have an impact on mood, the type of music is also important. Classical and meditation music offers the greatest mood-boosting benefits, while heavy metal and techno music are ineffective and even detrimental.

Of course, there are lots of other things you can do besides playing music to manage stress, like eating properly and not working long hours.

Tell us what you think – is music an important part of your working life? Do you have a team radio or do you use headphones? What do you do to manage stress at work?