The Nostalgic Power Of Music

Don’t be ashamed of your bop.


Last week, I went for a walk after work. Before I left the house, I opened up YouTube (I’ve had to let go of Spotify premium for the time being. R.I.P) and found a top 40 playlist to listen to as I strolled. But upon scrolling down, I realized that I wasn’t in the mood for 2021 pop.

I’d saw an Instagram post earlier that week about the iconic Pop Princesses album, released in 2004. Anything to remind me of simpler times. With the Pop Princesses playlist ready to go, I set off on my walk to the tones of Jump by Girls Aloud.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much my mood was lifted. As the playlist moved on, I was half tempted to put on a fully choreographed performance to Kylie Minogue- Spinning Around as I walked along the country roads. Like a drag queen lip syncing for her life- but with none of the finesse.

This made me think about the effects musical nostalgia can have on our mood. Although it was probably helped with the combination of fresh air and not being sedentary, I returned from my walk feeling very uplifted by my playlist of choice- and how it reminded me of warbling the tunes into my SingStar microphone at the age of seven (sorry for the headaches, mom).

This link between nostalgic songs and mood has been widely researched. One study found that memories and music are stored in the same part of the brain, the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC). This was tested by playing songs from participant’s childhoods and studying how their brains reacted. The results found that part of the MPFC links music and memory when we’re reminded of songs from our childhood. 

Another study compared brain imaging from participants who were listening to music they loved, music they felt neutral about, and a mix of both. PET scans revealed that the release of dopamine, a mood-enhancing chemical, was much higher when participants were listening to music they loved. 

So, whether you’re doing hardcore circuit training or relaxing at home, choose some old-school tunes as your next companion. It’s backed by science.