5 ways to use music therapy at home

Have you ever felt sad or anxious, only to have a song come on that instantly lifts your spirits?

Music and mood are connected. It’s why you have different playlists on your phone for working out, relaxing or dance parties with the kids. But did you know that music can be an effective, supplemental way to treat certain health issues?

Here’s what you need to know about music therapy.

Why does music affect our emotions?

Music taps into the part of the brain that manages your mood and emotions. In general, it reduces your brain’s production of cortisol, the hormone responsible for stress and anxiety. Studies have also shown that listening to or playing music increases the body’s production of disease-fighting cells.

  • When you listen to upbeat music, your brain releases serotonin and dopamine — two hormones that foster happiness.
  • Soothing music can relax muscle tension, slow breathing and help reduce stress.
  • When you need to get moving — mentally or physically — listening to music with positive messages or upbeat tempos can help you get motivated.

What health conditions can music help?

Music therapy aims to help people improve their mental or physical health using techniques such as improv or composition. If you want to explore music therapy at home, however, you may find simply incorporating music into your daily routine helps reduce stress for the following conditions:

Age-related illnesses

Listening to music or singing songs can provide emotional benefits for people with Alzheimer’s disease because musical memories are relatively undamaged by the disease. Playing an instrument for 10-plus years has also been shown to improve concentration skills, working memory and language fluency.


Musical therapists can help people with autism lower anxiety and develop new communication skills. While formal treatment must be done by an expert, listening to and talking about music or playing instruments are low-risk ways to help people with autism engage the brain and build social skills.

High blood pressure

Research has shown that playing music can provide heart-health benefits like lowering blood pressure and slowing a person’s resting heart rate.

Pain and depression

Music therapy can lessen chronic depression symptoms. It can also ease pain for people who’ve recently had surgery or those who suffer from fibromyalgia.

PTSD and trauma

Music therapy has been shown to reduce stress and combat negative moods in patients suffering from trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder.

How can you explore the benefits of music at home?

1. Pay attention to how certain songs affect your body and mood.

Music affects everyone differently. You might be surprised to find that a song most people think is sad actually inspires you to be thoughtful, or just brings back good memories. You may also find that certain voices, genres or beats make you anxious. Pay attention to how your body reacts when you hear a certain song.

2. Look at playlists as living things.

As you discover how songs affect you, add them to playlists so you’re constantly building a library of mood-setting music. Hear a song that pumps you up? Throw it on your running mix. Something that calms you down? Sunday afternoon mix. Find a song that makes you anxious? Give it a thumbs down so you won’t hear it while streaming.

3. Explore new types of music.

Even your favorite song gets old after a while, so throw new genres into the rotation. If you have a streaming service like Spotify or Pandora (both of which offer free options), they’ll provide suggestions for songs, artists or playlists you might like. Listening to those can be a good way to expand your library organically.

4. Listen actively.

Often music is something we have playing in the background, but stopping to listen to the words while doing nothing else can be inspiring, calming and enriching. Focusing on the melodies and harmonies can also help you gain new perspectives on things you thought you knew.

5. Get interactive.

There have never been more opportunities to engage directly with musicians online. Follow your favorite artists on social media to find out when they’re doing “living-room concerts” so you can watch and sing along. Or jump on YouTube and relive a live performance of a favorite song or time period. When you’re spending most of your time in one place, nostalgia and engagement are great passports.

Ashley Brantley

Ashley Brantley has been writing about food, culture and health for more than a decade, and has lived in three of Tennessee’s four major cities (Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville).

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Get more information about specific health terms, topics and conditions to better manage your health on bcbst.com. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee members can access wellness-related discounts on fitness products, gym memberships, healthy eating and more through Blue365®. BCBST members can also find tools and resources to help improve health and well-being by logging into BlueAccess and going to the Managing Your Health tab.