Beyoncé’s surprise weekend track Formation has been described as a fiery anthem for #BlackGirlMagic, inspiring millions in her Beyhive to apologetically thrust their fists (or their middle fingers) in the air to everyone who’s ever tried to negate blackness and black femininity.
But in the same way that Formation can inspire black women to positively embrace their femininity and power, could the reverse be true? We all know that spending a day listening to Nina Simone or Amy Winehouse’s more gritty tracks (My Man’s Gone Now or Wake Up Alone, anyone?), and you could end up feeling a little blue.
But could sad songs permanently alter your mental health?
According to a study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, music does not only change our mood, but it could also have long-term effects on our mental health. In fact, if you listen to aggressive or sad music, you might experience higher levels of anxiety than people who listen to more upbeat tunes.
Emily Carlson, co-author of this study and a music therapist, says: “ Some ways of coping with negative emotion, such as rumination, which means continually thinking about negative things, are linked to poor mental health. We wanted to learn whether there could be similar negative effects of some styles of music listening.”
The research team from the Centre for Interdisciplinary Music Research at the University of Jyväskylä and Aalto University in Finland and Aarhus University in Denmark tested the neural responses of participants while they listened to happy, aggressive and sad music. They then compared this to markers of mental health, including anxiety, depression and neuroticism.
The results of this study suggested that listening to music affected the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). The senior author of this study, Professor Elvira Brattico, says: “The mPFC is active during emotion regulation. These results show a link between music listening styles and mPFC activation, which could mean that certain listening styles have long-term effects on the brain.”
Carlson says: “We hope our research encourages music therapists to talk with their clients about their music use outside the session and encourages everyone to think about how the different ways they use music might help or harm their own well-being.”