Change Your Music, Change Your Mood


What started as superficial, self-help advice ended up being a fascinating study on my own mind.

Image of lady listening to music for the music and mood article

Music and Mood

Recently, I went to work with a co-worker and was in a bad mood. I was complaining to him about it and he suggested when I get back to the office, I listen to music.

I essentially ignored him. It sounded like the same kind of stupid self-help advice Lucy would charge The Peanuts five cents for. Also, I was in a bad mood and everything sounded stupid to me.

But when I got back to my desk, my coworker was taking a call and talking loudly. So, I put in earphones, turned on Spotify, and within a few minutes, found myself tapping my feet, singing along, and my bad mood had completely dissipated.


I decided to do a little research, starting with Music and the Brain. I learned quite a few things about why simply listening to songs can influence your emotions.

Dr. Aniruddh D. Patel, a professor of Psychology at Tufts University, leads the course. In it, he shares a study by Patrik Juslin and Daniel Västfjäll theorizing that there are at least eight distinct psychological mechanisms by which music can arouse emotion in listeners.

In some cases, it might simply bring back the memory of a happy place or time when the same song was playing, much like the sense of smell can invoke nostalgia. It may bring back a positive emotion as well – for example, a song that was playing while you ate food you enjoy or fell in love.  In other cases, music can activate mental images that aren’t associated with the music but images conjured up in the mind by the music.

Our brains are fascinating organs and the sheer number of factors that influence our brains enough to change our emotional states is enthralling. The science behind how music impacts our moods goes way beyond this little tidbit I shared, and if you found this interesting, I encourage you to check out Music and the Brain.

And the next time you’re in a bad mood, try a new song and see what happens.

Contributed by Summer B. Sr. Copywriter, The Great Courses