Anyone who listens to music has felt an emotional response to a particular song at some point, if not often. Introverts, highly sensitive people, empaths, or anyone internally focused will naturally experience strong emotions to much of the music they listen to. After all, music interacts directly with your brain, affecting everything from your heart rate, motivation, and anxiety levels to emotional response, focus, and memory.
“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” – Plato
Have you ever listened to an old song because it somehow brings you comfort? That’s because that song is associated with a memory that makes you feel happy, but that same song can elicit a completely different emotional response from someone else. Nostalgia can can also occur with a bad memory.
Introverts Feeling the Music
Turn up the music! If you truly like the song, it’s scientifically proven that it will make you feel better. Music acts as a reward for the brain (dopamine). There’s just something about the way the sounds are woven together; the melody, lyrics, and the twists and turns of the rhythm.
Music can make you feel calm and more relaxed. If I’m just moody for an unknown reason, I turn on my “happy” playlist and I gradually start to feel better about life. The music sets the tone for me, and I can just sit back and absorb it.
Music can also get your heart pumping, draw out some wicked dance moves, or even trigger negative feelings. I’ve turned off plenty of songs because they remind me of past relationships or my parents’ divorce. And, haven’t we all listened to sad songs when we’re already sad or heartbroken?
For two reasons. First, sometimes it helps us process whatever we’re going through. One thing my therapist said that always stuck with me is that we are allowed to acknowledge what we’re feeling, and then just “sit in it” for awhile before moving on. Feel your feelings, as they say.
Second, we just want to listen to someone who understands what we’re feeling, and musicians can do this through the magic of their lyrics and sound. This makes us introverts feel understood and less alone.
I sometimes use music as tool to release tension. As an INFJ personality type, I’m not good at sharing my feelings. so when I’m upset, and can’t find the words, I put on a 80s metal or Seattle grunge from the 90s (Chris Cornell is a favorite). I sing super loud, almost yelling, and you know what? It helps me get all the icky feelings out, which allows me to calm down.
The Introvert Way to Escape
Many introverts like music as a means of escape, but the word “escape” is relative.
When you see people out in public with their headphones on or earbuds inserted, chances are high that they are introverts. I say this because I’ve done this, and it usually means they are avoiding having to interact with people. Whether it’s to avoid conversation, background noise, people in general, or they’re just sad, we’ll never know.
Other times, we’re worn out and overwhelmed, and just need a break from it all. When it’s time to recharge, many introverts will turn to music. I would consider music just as much a form of self care as I would a hot bath or alone time with a book. Certain songs will mellow us out and relax us to the point of feeling good enough to step back into our lives with renewed energy. Isn’t music amazing?!
When Music is Bad for Introverts
You would never think that an introvert would not want to listen to music, but timing is everything.
When I’m at a social event, I expect to hear music, however being at a party is already challenging for most introverts. The music may be too loud, too obnoxious, or we just don’t like the songs. It becomes annoying, and can be one of the reasons we leave the party early, as it may feel overwhelming to us.
Music can also be quite distracting when we’re trying to read, study, or in some way, focus. This isn’t true for all introverts, but it’s true for many, as sometimes total silence is required to get the job done. I can’t listen to music and accomplish anything that requires thought, but maybe that’s because I’m so drawn into the song, I literally can’t think of anything else.
If you’re a highly sensitive introvert, or HSP, certain types of music may feel like an assault on your sensitive ears. I’m an HSP, and I have experienced this plenty of times. It can be a certain frequency or decibel of the song that gets to me, but it’s especially annoying when I have no control over it.
Our Music is Sacred & Personal
We’re not too different from the rest of the world, except that we like music we can connect to, emotionally. It’s significant in our lives. And, although Top 40 doesn’t usually do it for us, that doesn’t mean we don’t ever listen to it.
According to a large survey done by 16Personalities, the feeling personality types listened to blues, world, soul, alternative, and jazz music. I fall into the alternative, electronic, and jazz categories, but I listen to a lot of old 70s rock, too (I’m dating myself here). And, I have a “happy playlist” that includes everything from Queen and Alabama Shakes to Houndmouth and Late Night Episode.
My point is, our music preference runs wide and deep. That doesn’t make us special, it just helps you understand that most of the time, our song choice has more to do with the feelings and memories wrapped around it than it does anything else.
Music Suggestions for Your Mood
These are from my own experience, so please choose what works best for you. Most importantly, play what you like and what makes you feel better.
Motivation: Pick something upbeat with a strong background beat. These are songs that will make you want to move, dance, or workout. They will push you to do more and feel good about it.
Tension: This is the “angry music” I mentioned earlier. Find an aggressive song (90s grunge, anyone?) that you like and sing like you’ve never sung before. This is ideal for when you’re home alone or driving in the car. Just sing it out.
Relaxation: Obviously, you need a mellow, slow moving song that you have enjoyed in the past. For me, this is Amos Lee all the way. His voice is so soothing to me.
Empowerment: When you need music that makes you feel like you can take on the world, or overcome any adversity, look to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” (<–my hub’s go to), or if you’re a woman and prefer something milder, Alicia Keys “Girl on Fire” is a fantastic start.
Happiness: So many upbeat and happy songs to listen to. Songs with a great background beat that mixes it up work best for me. Dave Matthews works well here. Also consider “Pumpin Blood” by NONONO.
Introverts, what is your favorite genre or song you’d recommend? I’m currently listening to the newly released Harmony Hall by Vampire Weekend.