Mood Music Listening Habits

When music listening is desired almost nonstop, it may be related to a problematic mood found in any of the U.S.E. moods. For example, a soothed mood may be the target feeling to avoid feeling anything else. So only soothing music is chosen with all other music (and situations?) avoided.

Let’s explore why music choices connect with highly preferred music. Neuroscience research points to two reasons.

“Hebb’s (1949) theory states what gets fired together, gets wired together. We listen to our favorite music over and over which creates strong functional connections to those memories. (Behrens, 2023)

We discover that within a short time our mood changes because we’ve been conditioned by this music connection.

The second reason involves the amygdala that processes the valence and intensity of sensory information (van der Kolk, 2017). When sensory experiences are highly charged emotionally, either positive or negative valance, high amounts of neurochemicals, such as norepinephrine, get released that tag the sensory information, which results in strengthening the memory of the information. We often listen to our highly preferred music more emotionally charged and therefore as the sensory information is processed, they are tagged with the neurochemicals. This research also is why people dealing with unresolved trauma struggle trying to forget traumatic experiences.” (Behrens, 2023)

This struggle to forget traumatic experiences points to why different music may be self-chosen, unrelated to the trauma connected to the problematic mood, in a conscious or unconscious attempt to disengage from the electrochemical reactions.

These subliminal forces point to another research study reporting that the temporal dynamics underlying the stress-reducing effect of music listening remain unclear (Linneman, 2018). When analyzing reported music listening experiences (n=60), it was observed that self-reports conflicted with objectively assessed data. Although self-reports linked music listening to lower stress reports, the objectively assessed data did not connect music listening to a reduction of stress. In fact, the time lag between music listening and the assessment of stress indicated an increase in stress.

These findings suggest that certain music listening habits may only be a temporary relief of stress. When music is utilized within prescriptive techniques stress management may be more certain (Pinkerton, 2019; Wellman & Pinkerton, 2015). Intentional listening habits with prescriptive practices recognize and transform 24/7 self-medication habits that may be repressing emotions. Specific training is available to educate the student about these music-therapy informed strategies to shift problematic moods into positive outcomes (


Behrens, G.A. (2023, July 4). Linkedin article comment retrieved on July 5, 2023 for “Why music causes memories to flood back.”, February 26, 2023. Accessed at

Hebb, D.O. (1949). The Organization of Behavior. New York: Wiley & Sons.

Linnemann A, Wenzel M, Grammes J, Kubiak T, Nater UM. Music Listening and Stress in Daily Life-a Matter of Timing. Int J Behav Med. 2018 Apr;25(2):223-230. doi: 10.1007/s12529-017-9697-5. PMID: 29164485; PMCID: PMC5852177.

Pinkerton, J. (2019). Brace for impact: A case for emotional fluidity. Las Vegas, NV: Music 4 Life, Inc.

Van der Kolk, B. A. (2017). Developmental Trauma Disorder: Toward a rational diagnosis for children with complex trauma histories. Psychiatric annals, 35(5), 401-408.

Wellman, R., and Pinkerton, J. (2015). The development of a music therapy protocol: A Music 4 Life® case report of a veteran with PTSD. Music and Medicine Journal, VII (3), 24-39.


Today’s article was written by our Guest Blogger:

Judith Pinkerton, LPMT, MT-BC

Licensed board-certified music therapist

Founder/CEO, Music 4 Life® Inc.