Sad music is more emotionally powerful than happy musicHappy songs can put you in a great mood and truly lift your spirits, but more often it’s the sorrow-filled pieces that take our emotions.The overpowering feelings of sadness and melancholy that you get when listening to Jeff Buckley’s cover of Hallelujah or Johnny Cash’s cover of Hurt are amplified because they resonate with your feelings. Sometimes this is more meaningful to your growth or understanding than cheerful songs.
You can literally ‘catch’ emotions from music
Do you ever find yourself unwillingly tapping your foot to the beat of a banger or nodding your head along to a strong rhythm? You’ve caught musical emotion or formally speaking, ‘emotional contagion’.
While still just speculation, we think this may happen through empathy. Just as you empathise with the emotions of others, that same part of your brain leads to a first-hand experience of feeling the emotions through music too.
Music encourages peak performance
What do Nick Kyrgios, Rhonda Rousey or your local footy club all have in common? They listen to pre, intra and post-match music to put them in the right headspace to perform at their peak. Music is a seriously effective way to re-align your mood or motivation to a desired state and the good news is that you don’t need to be a sports sensation to crack the code.
If you’re feeling underwhelmed or and want to be fully alert and focused, listen to something with a fast tempo and driving rhythm – this will get your heart beating faster and have you ‘pumped up’ in no time.
Similarly, lyrics can help achieve a certain mental state, ultimately making you more confident, focused and tough! Eminem’s ‘Till I Collapse, Queen’s We are the Champions or The Black Keys Lonely Boy are all perfect tracks to get you in that headspace.
Dr Nikki Rickard is the Program Director of Psychology at Swinburne Online and current President of the Australian Music and Psychology Society. Dr Rickard was awarded her PhD from La Trobe University in 1995 and began her academic career at Monash University in 1996.