Music to my ears

Music to my ears
Music to my ears

Have you ever wondered why every spa you go to plays soothing music while you’re being massaged or having a facial, why there’s chilled out music in the relaxation room and why the music in your gym class is quite, quite different? Do you know why they play fast music in some restaurants and chilled, relaxing music in the more upmarket ones? (Hint: the cheaper the food, the louder and more upbeat the music will be because it makes you eat faster.)

Music has a profound effect on our senses. As part of our Stress Awareness Month series, we spoke to Phil Smith at about the many ways you can boost your mood with music.

“Listening to music causes the brain to release dopamine, a feel-good chemical, according to a new study. It’s this dopamine-induced pleasure which may help explain why music has been such a big part of human societies throughout history. Music really does make you happy and understanding why people like listening to music is helping scientists understand human pleasure.

“The link between music and human pleasure is so strong that the same study also proved that just anticipating the sounds of a composition like Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" or Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven” literally makes the dopamine flow through your brain – it’s nature’s way of making you feel great.

It’s biology!

“In a previous study, Valorie Salimpoor, a neuroscientist at McGill University in Montreal , linked music-induced pleasure with a surge in intense emotional arousal, including changes in heart rate, pulse, breathing rate and other measurements, as well as reporting the ‘shivers’ or ‘chills’. When that happened during a listening experience there was evidence that blood was flowing to regions in the brain involved in dopamine release.

“In the experiment, eight music lovers brought a playlist of their favourite music - the soundtracks to their lives, if you will. The lists included classical pieces, pop, rock and jazz to. The most popular choice was Barber's Adagio for Strings.

(Listen to the dopamine soaked playlists.)

“After 15 minutes of listening, scientists injected participants with a radioactive substance that binds to dopamine receptors. With a machine called a PET scanner, the scientists were then able to see if it circulated through listeners' blood, proving that they’d released dopamine, and that it was tying up all available receptors. If most of their dopamine receptors were free, on the other hand, the radioactive substance would bind to them.

“The technique showed, definitively for the first time, that people's brains released large amounts of dopamine when they listened to music they loved, the researchers reported in the journal Nature Neuroscience. When the same people listened to music they didn’t care for the next day, their dopamine receptors remained wide open.

“The findings suggest that, like sex and drugs, music may be mildly addictive, said David Huron, a music cognition researcher at Ohio State University, Columbus. Given that seven in ten of Twitter’s top users are pop stars, we think he could be right!

“So, next time you feel stressed, don’t reach for chocolate or wine; get your ipod out and make a playlist with all your favourite feel good tracks. Alternatively, stream anything that takes your fancy from a site like

What are your favourite feel good tracks? Just for fun, mine are:

1. Great Things – Echobelly

2. So happy I could die – Lady Gaga

3. Upside Down – Paloma Faith

4. Mamma Mia – ABBA

5. New Generation – Suede

About the author

'Since 1989, SpaSeekers has been helping customers find their perfect spa experience. All packages come with a best price guarantee at over 500 of the UK's leading spas.'

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