Feeling blue? Tapping your toe to a fast tempo or swinging you hips to a jam solo may increase your happiness, new study finds.

This classic childhood song (one of my daughter’s favorites) tends to repeat itself, with just a few minor changes in the lyrics, but the end result is always the same: you’re going to have to find some way to express yourself based on how you feel. A new study done by two professors from Deakin University in Victoria, Australia, gives a few startling revelations about how music may truly affect us.

The study decided to take a look at the connection between “music engagement” and “subjective wellbeing,” which is comprised of individual evaluations of “life satisfaction.” The study starts off by first establishing that music can be an “enjoyable and satisfying everyday activity,” can reduce stress as well as evoke “positive feelings” like joy, relaxation, and empowerment, and engaging with music can be used as a “problem-coping strategy.”

Music engagement has even been associated with “with a lower mortality rate in a large national Swedish study.” What’s surprising here is how music has been a proven “strategy to help manage and regulate [people’s] mood.”

Melissa K. Weinberg, who holds a PhD in Quantative Psychology, and Associate Professor Dawn Johnson from the School of Education decided to take a point of view about what implications music actually has in a person’s “subjective wellbeing” (SWB in the study), which is the scientific physiological term for “happiness,” which, according to the study, is “positive, stable, and consistent over time” and generally defines “an individual’s perception of the quality of their own life.” According to several other studies done, a person’s SWB can be measured simply by using “general questions about life satisfaction.” The SWB usually lies between 70 and 90 on a “100-point scale in normal Western populations.”

The study goes on to cite important factors in returning to normal SWB, admitting that when SWB is below its set point, external resources like “money and relationships are powerful in the process of homeostasis,” or returning to that set point. Close relationships serve as an “outlet for stress and anxiety, while simultaneously reinforcing one’s belief that they are a loved and valued person.”

So what does music engagement actually mean and how does this affect our SWB? Before diving right into their methodology, according to Weinberg and Johnson, advances in technology have increased music availability and accessibility to people. The study even states that “hearing music is practically unavoidable in today’s day and age.”

Music engagement can either be active, “such that [people] are creating music,” or passive, in that “they are consumers of music.” Music engagement can be directly correlated with wellbeing, since “positive relationships have been found between music and wellbeing” for people who listen to music, decide to sing, play an instrument, create or compose music, attend music festivals, and just straight up dance. Even teenagers, when intentionally attempting to regulate their moods, deliberately listen to music, and “those looking for ‘diversion’ away from an unpleasant mood typically sang or played music.”

Are there any differences between genders? Of course. According to a 2012 study, higher life satisfaction for women is associated with “singing, theatre, and dancing,” while for men, it’s all about dancing. Regardless of gender, directly engaging in music actively generally provides “greater individual benefits than passive engagement, because activities like producing music and performing encourage self-exploration, emotional expression, self-esteem and confidence.”


Read the full story by Daniel Adrien Sanchez at Digital Music News

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