Does Listening to Old Music Make You Happier?

Pink, purple and orange background with "nostalgic music" written in white font.  On the left, there is a teen girl, wearing a black shirt with white stripes.  She has long, brown hair, is wearing white headphones, holding a phone, has her eyes closed and is singing.

Do you ever listen to music that reminds you of a fun time in the past? Perhaps a road trip, or a childhood summer holiday, or a special Christmas celebration? Listening to music that brings us happy memories is known to give us a small bit of happiness.  However, have you ever wondered why listening to old music makes you happier?

Music that we associate with good memories evoke emotions that we felt in that moment.  That nostalgic feeling that we get reminds us of that happy moment in the past and also helps us see how we’ve grown and changed since then.

Another reason why nostalgic music gives us a small bit of happiness: the dopamine released due to anticipation. Dopamine (a chemical known to increase happiness) is released into our brain when we’re anticipating our favorite part of a song. Dopamine has also been known to be released when music gives us ‘chills’. 

Teen boy standing on the left, in front of a white wall.  He is wearing a blue shirt, headphones, looking upwards and smiling.  The boy is looking upwards at black text saying "between 12-22 we make stronger connections to music."

Music fun fact:

As teens we actually form stronger connections to music!  Between 12-22, our formative years, our brains rapidly develop. This means that if you listen to a song from those formative times, you will be flooded with lots of feelings. For example, if you have fun memories from a trip when you were 12, and you listened to a certain song frequently during this trip, if you listen to this song again when you are 14 or 24 or any other age, it will flood you with feelings of joy, and memories from your trip.  Perhaps this explains why parents love music from their youth so much. 

Teen girl laying on white carpet, listening to music.  She has blonde hair, and is wearing a purple, orange and green striped sweater.  She's wearing white headphones and holding up a phone.

What’s more, our ability to recall specific associations with music is so strong that it literally brings our mind back to different parts of our life. Studies have shown that from a very young age, humans are able to recognize, memorize, and remember specific associations with music.  As humans, when we listen to music associated with a happy memory, the feelings that we get when listening are also happy. This is why nostalgic music brings us a small bit of happiness.

Today, look up songs from a few years ago (i.e top hits from 2010) and once you hear a familiar song, think about happy memories that connect you to that time. Or, think of a happy memory and look up songs from that time and enjoy the flood of good memories.   

We hope that knowing why listening to music from the past inspires you to listen to some of your old favorite songs, and gives you a small bit of happiness. 


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