The science says that music can give us the same happy hit as a class A drug… If so, how can we be best use music to melt those little town blues?
Before I became a psychologist I sang jazz. For ten years I witnessed the seemingly magical effect that music can have over people, both individually and as a group. While I would love to think that my voice had something to do with this, I soon realised that it was all about the music. No matter the gig. Be it a small soirée or a large concert show, certain songs made people behave in particular ways. Frank Sinatra’s Strangers in the Night would compel couples to lead each other by the hand towards a warm embracing dance. The Bossa Nova beat of Dean Martin’s Sway would have women rise from their seats like a snake charmer raises a python from their basket and take to the dance floor like Latino natives. But without fail, what would always amaze would be the euphoric effect of the Old Blue Eyes classic, New York New York at the end of the night. Without exception people would take to the floor, wrap their arms around both friend and stranger, kick their legs high in the air and sing aloud all the words they knew (or didn’t). The result of which would be a room full of extremely happy people.
(Salimpoor et al 2011) Studies show that when we hear music our brains release the same feel good chemicals into our bodies as it does when we eat a nice meal, have sex or even get a good night’s sleep. The chemical known as Dopamine is part of the brain’s reward system and gives us a little treat when we satisfy a biological need. It is this same chemical that class-A drugs such as Cocaine manipulate to give people that ‘high’ feeling.
Adding to this (Eerola and Eerola 2014) showed that singing together increases affiliation within in the group. So as more and more people attempt to sing the words “these little town blues”, the love for each other grows within the group. This may go a little bit to explain the reason that everyone in the room feels the need to put their arms around each other while they are singing. It also has the added effect of increasing the mood the more people sing together.
Well, research (Ferguson et al 2013) also suggests that people who use music to manage their mood report better mood regulation then people who do not. The two most important things to remember while trying to achieve this however is to;
Now that you have experienced your Happy Hit, keep it going by doing something else that you know gives you pleasure. Happiness breaths happiness.
And if all that sounds like too much hard work then you could always join the local choir… Just keeeep singing!!