When people hear the term “therapeutic music,” they tend to think about calm, classical instrumentals. They might envision harps or pianos. In the background, there might be the soft sound of wind chimes or the rush of a babbling stream.
But what if therapeutic music were a little louder, a little more intense? What if therapeutic music involved a little more screaming?
A recent study conducted by the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, found that some individuals actually calm down when they listen to hardcore, angry music. This surprising, seemingly contradictory result ran counter to the researcher’s expectations and might just change the way we approach therapy.
The study, which was published in the scientific journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, involved 39 participants between the age of 18 and 34. All participants considered themselves to be fans of extreme music, defined in this study as heavy-metal, hardcore, punk, emo or screamo music. In the study, the participants were subjected to 16 minutes of “anger induction,” during which they were directed to talk about irritating subjects such as employment, finances and relationships. After the participants were successfully riled up, they were divided into two groups. One group sat in silence, while the other participants were exposed to the extreme songs of their choice.
The group who listened to music felt just as calmed as the group who sat in silence.
“Results showed levels of hostility, irritability and stress decreased after music was introduced, and the most significant change was the level of inspiration they felt,” explained the study.
The researchers also examined which songs the participants chose to listen to during their 10-minute calming session. Half of the chosen songs contained themes of anger or aggression, whereas the remainder contained themes of isolation and sadness. Despite the sullen themes, participants reported that the songs they chose enhanced their happiness and helped them “immerse themselves in feelings of love and enhance their well-being.”
“We found that music regulated sadness and enhanced positive emotions,” explained Leah Sharman, one of the co-authors of the study. “When experiencing anger, extreme-music fans liked to listen to music that could match their anger.”
Do people who like extreme music listen to that music because it lets them safely express their anger? It seems possible, but other possibilities cannot be ruled out. For instance, people who like extreme music might find that the music makes them calmer because they enjoy the music. Taking time out of the day to perform pleasurable activities, such as watching a movie, reading a book or playing a sport, is an excellent way to reduce stress and boost mental health. In other words, for people who like hardcore music, listening to 10 minutes of their favorite band might be akin to eating a chocolate sundae.
What does this mean?
If people like heavy metal music, they should listen to heavy metal music. If people like emo music, they should listen to emo music.
What about people who prefer the sound of a harp or a piano? Music can be a healing force for just about anybody – just ask the American Music Therapy Association, or AMTA. Music can provoke feelings of familiarity or comfort. It can trigger inspiration or quell stormy thoughts. Studies have indicated that music is capable of treating insomnia, reducing the perceived intensity of pain and relieving depression symptoms. Extensive research highlights that music has a positive influence on stress and anxiety.
So what about people who prefer the sound of a harp or a piano? Listen to a harp. Listen to a piano. Listen to music that makes you feel good and – surprise, surprise – you might just feel a little bit calmer.
Sovereign Mental Health Services recognizes that individual patients have individualized needs. We tailor each treatment to the person, guaranteeing the optimal outcome for heavy-metal fans and country fans alike. For further questions, please contact Sovereign Mental Health Services at 866-954-0529.