Whether you realize it or not, Ruhoy says you do associate certain songs and/or sounds with certain events in your life. Ever listened to a song you loved when you were young and felt a wave of nostalgia? Music has a powerful way of conjuring up those memories, whether they’re happy, sad, stressful, etc.
“We do make associations, and that does help us process emotions,” says Ruhoy. “I have patients who will tell me that they cry at certain songs, because it reminds them of a particular sad event. And that is very therapeutic on some level.”
In fact, music may have the ability to help you process buried emotions, like in cases of trauma and PTSD. “Things in our lives that we don’t process appropriately will affect our cellular machinery and will affect our neurology, and music can sometimes help us do that,” Ruhoy declares. “When we play songs that bring us back to a certain time, they do have healing potential in the sense that they help us process some of these underlying emotions that might still be present and might be affecting our health.”
Of course, it’s not as simple as listening to a song and automatically feeling uplifted. Music may help you identify underlying emotions, but dealing with them still takes necessary work. “When you understand what goes into the neurological system and what goes into our overall health and well-being, it’s very complex,” Ruhoy notes. “I see all of these things just intertwined and playing a role.”