Therapist Reveals The Massive Neurological Benefit Of Listening To The Music You Loved In High School

Queue the Britney Spears, please!

happy woman listening to old music Look Studio / Shutterstock

Don’t try to deny it — you’ve had a little concert shower or been caught belting your “nostalgia playlist” at a red light. Whether it’s alone or with friends, listening to music and singing along always feels so incredibly therapeutic. Windows down, radio blasting — it’s like a slice of heaven. 

But what if this incredible feeling was actually backed by research? Turns out it is. Our nervous systems and brains are yearning for nostalgia and looking for connection at every second.


Sometimes, it finds it in music — that old Jordan Belfort song or Britney Spears track might be “cringy” to kids now, but it could actually be acting as a form of therapy for you. So, the next time you’re dealing with some big feelings or looking to connect with yourself after a long day at work, treat yourself to some throwback tunes. 

A therapist revealed that listening to old music you used to love has tons of healing neurological benefits. 

“Listen to the music that you loved to listen to ... as a teenager,” Therapist Nikki Roy suggested, “like punk rock, Pitbull, whatever. Listen to that because it actually helps us. It helps us get out of our heads and connect to ourselves. It makes us feel alive again.”  




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“There is a thing called neural nostalgia,” Roy explained, “where researchers are actually finding that the music we used to listen to as teenagers binds to our brain differently than anything we’re ever going to hear as adults.” 

This nostalgia, which is ever-present in our old playlists and CDs, is also present in other media forms we indulged in as kids — from TV shows to old movies and even old objects we frequently used during happy times in our lives. 


Studies show that this neural nostalgia — whether from music or other avenues — has tons of benefits, including reducing stress and anxiety, protecting against ever-present feelings of loneliness, and even sparking a new sense of purpose and confidence.

However, remember that intentionally using something like music to spark nostalgia has the potential to be powerful for better or worse. If you have specific trauma from your childhood or college years, this old music might bring back memories that are less than fond. 

Therapist Reveals Neurological Benefits To Listening To Old MusicPhoto: Pheelings media / Shutterstock


Listening to old music can also help heal unresolved childhood trauma.

While they might not necessarily be “happy” memories, Roy argued that listening to this music can still be “healing” — if the right intentions are set. 

“We can maybe start to do some inner child healing and wound repair work if that feels safe,” she suggested. “Listen to the music that got you through that time period, watch the shows that you loved, and give those experiences back to yourself."



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You don't need to avoid all the music that was once triggering — instead, go back to it as the adult you are today. “Soothe and validate the position you were in," Roy advised. "Show up to yourself as a teenager as you would like an adult now.” 

"We can't ever go back and change what happened to us, but we can go back and heal those parts of us," she added.

Singing and listening to music can be incredibly helpful for your mental health — both in regulating your nervous system and emotions. 

Research suggests that the act of listening to music can reduce harm in some of life’s toughest moments. Not only does it aid in reducing stress, but it acts as a buffer to a lot of negative emotions, struggles, and battles. 



In addition to being stress-reducing, listening to music and specific frequencies can help to aid physical health, like reducing blood pressure, and mental health like depression and anxiety. Studies also show that music can help to “slow aging” in the brain, particularly by helping with cognitive skills, sleep quality, and overall mental fitness. 


So, find what’s right for you. Whether it be Britney or some brown noise, there’s no judgment here. Music is a tool for enjoyment, of course, but it’s also actively helping you, so don’t underestimate the power of that perfect playlist. 

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Zayda Slabbekoorns is a News & Entertainment Writer at YourTango who focuses on health & wellness, social policy, and human interest stories.