Change the Experience of Music with Mindfulness

Change the Experience of Music with Mindfulness


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“Music and meditation both allow a fuller and richer experience of our emotions: They stop our incessant and often negative mental chatter and offer us an opportunity to inhabit the present moment more fully and meaningfully.” –  Darin McFadyen


Mindfulness practice has been shown to improve emotion regulation. Practitioners demonstrate the ability to fully sense and experience emotions but respond to them in more appropriate and adaptive ways. In other words, mindful people are better able to experience yet control their responses to emotions. This is a very important consequence of mindfulness. Humans are very emotional creatures and these emotions can be very pleasant, providing the spice of life. But when they get extreme, they can produce misery and even mental illness.


Music also evokes emotions. These appear to be somewhat different from those evoked in everyday life and so they are given a different term “aesthetic emotions”. These are one of the reasons that music is so universally popular. Mindfulness has been shown to improve the appreciation of music. It is not known, however, is mindfulness changes the emotional appreciation of music; aesthetic emotions.


In today’s Research News article “Effects of Mindfulness Meditation on Musical Aesthetic Emotion Processing.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: ) Liu and colleagues recruited college students who did not have any musical training or mindfulness meditation training. They were measured for mindfulness and positive and negative emotions and randomly assigned to either no further training or to receive a 10-minute mindfulness meditation training. After the training they listened to “15 music clips (duration 1 min) from the Chinese classical folk instrumental musical works” in a randomized order. Five of which were happy, 5 sad, and 5 calm. After each clip the students completed Likert scales of the recognition, experience, tension, beauty, and liking of the clips and the emotions experienced by the students when listening to the clips.


They found that in comparison to the control group, the group that received brief mindfulness meditation training were significantly less accurate in identifying the emotion portrayed in the clips, experienced significantly less emotion in themselves while listening to the clips, experienced reduced body awareness, and experienced a faster passage of time while listening to the music. The mindfulness training group also found the clips significantly more beautiful than the control group.


The brief mindfulness meditation reduced the recognition of the emotion of the music and the magnitude of the emotional responses to it. This is likely due to the ability of mindfulness to improve emotion regulation, allowing them to experience the emotion but not overly respond to it. Mindfulness also increased the experience of the beauty of the music, perhaps as a result to mindfulness increasing their attention to the music itself. The faster musical time perception experienced and lower body awareness by the mindfulness group may also be due to the increased attention to the music.


These are interesting results that suggest that mindfulness influences the effect of music on the listener, reducing emotional intensity, body awareness and time perception while listening, but increasing the perceived beauty of the music. Mindfulness appears to alter the aesthetic emotional appreciation of the music.


So, change the experience of music with mindfulness.


Combining music with meditation can deepen the positive effects of both, and bring you greater stress relief.” – Elizabeth Scott


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


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Study Summary


Liu X, Liu Y, Shi H and Zheng M (2021) Effects of Mindfulness Meditation on Musical Aesthetic Emotion Processing. Front. Psychol. 12:648062. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.648062


Mindfulness meditation is a form of self-regulatory training for the mind and the body. The relationship between mindfulness meditation and musical aesthetic emotion processing (MAEP) remains unclear. This study aimed to explore the effect of temporary mindfulness meditation on MAEP while listening to Chinese classical folk instrumental musical works. A 2 [(groups: mindfulness meditation group (MMG); control group (CG)] × 3 (music emotions: calm music, happy music, and sad music) mixed experimental design and a convenience sample of university students were used to verify our hypotheses, which were based on the premise that temporary mindfulness meditation may affect MAEP (MMG vs. CG). Sixty-seven non-musically trained participants (65.7% female, age range: 18–22 years) were randomly assigned to two groups (MMG or CG). Participants in MMG were given a single 10-min recorded mindfulness meditation training before and when listening to music. The instruments for psychological measurement comprised of the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ) and the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS). Self-report results showed no significant between-group differences for PANAS and for the scores of four subscales of the FFMQ (p > 0.05 throughout), except for the non-judging of inner experience subscale. Results showed that temporary mindfulness meditation training decreased the negative emotional experiences of happy and sad music and the positive emotional experiences of calm music during recognition and experience and promoted beautiful musical experiences in individuals with no musical training. Maintaining a state of mindfulness while listening to music enhanced body awareness and led to experiencing a faster passage of musical time. In addition, it was found that Chinese classical folk instrumental musical works effectively induced aesthetic emotion and produced multidimensional aesthetic experiences among non-musically trained adults. This study provides new insights into the relationship between mindfulness and music emotion.