How to Use Music For Emotional Release (Catharsis)

You are currently viewing How to Use Music For Emotional Release (Catharsis)

Music can be used for an emotional release, and experiencing catharsis. This is in regards to all emotions, may it be sadness, happiness, stress, anger, feeling of oppression, or any other pent up emotions. Here’s a guide to how to use music for emotional release.

I think you know what I mean. Have you ever been so sad that you just have to put on sad music to ease and accompany your pain? Or have you ever been so happy that you need to have energizing music to help you dance and jump around? All those scenarios are moments where music is used for emotional release.

Catharsis is defined as 

“The process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions”

Oxford Languages

Reasons Music Is Good for Emotional Release

I think music (along with bodily movements such as dancing, stomping, leaping, hitting in the air, and running) are one of the best ways of releasing pent up negative energy. Especially in regards to aggressive energy such as anger, irritation, stress, feeling oppressed, inhibited or stuck.

It’s a much healthier way than compared to activities such as taking those negative feelings out on other people. So many, who have not learned a healthy coping mechanism for negative emotions, instead take it out on the people around them. For example, starting verbal fights with loved ones, getting into physical fights which can lead to taking the life of another being, or just exerting the energy in a “hurtful” way.

Of course there are other good ways of dealing with emotional pain as well, such as journaling and conversational therapy, both of which I am also supportive of. But I think some experiences and feelings can most effectively be channeled through releasing energy, which can be hard to do sitting down and still, while needing to express oneself rationally and analyze one’s own emotions.

How to use music for emotional release

Practically, begin with trying to get a hum about what type of emotion you are feeling. After that, it’s easy to search for playlists on YouTube, Spotify, SoundCloud (or if you have your own), that feature music that expresses that emotion. Play some of it, and see which ones resonate best with what you’re experimenting with at the moment.

It can help to listen to the music loudly, or to use your headphones. It can also help to be alone or in another safe space where no one will judge you for your movements and expressions. Or, in a place where the setting is low-light and allows for anonymity.


To release emotions through dancing with music, it may help to first close your eyes, or focus on looking at something specific (a light source, the moon, a plant or any other object), to help get into the music. Let your body move in whatever way it wants, not caring about how it looks

You are not doing this to look good for other people, or perform something that isn’t what you really want to do at the moment. This is just about moving authentically, allowing your body to move without the mind interfering too much. 

If you’re shy, it may help to flick off the lights (if you’re alone somewhere inside), or go stand near a corner or in the back of the crowd (if you’re in a crowd). Some people may find substances (alcohol and other things) to help them relax and allow themselves to let go of social conventions, but that’s entirely up to you if you want to use or not.

The key is to be in the moment, and tap into your feelings. Even if you’re experiencing sad, angry or other negative emotions, you may feel yourself wanting to smile, and that’s totally okay too. Or you may find yourself moving in ways you find weird and unusual for you, or perhaps you’ll start getting self conscious about moving too aggressively, but let those thoughts go. There are absolutely no right or wrong ways to move your body in space. Yes, we have some social conventions of how you’re supposed to move in “public”, but let’s put that out of the frame here.


To release emotions through exercising with music, I find it helpful to go out for a walk or run alone, or with someone you trust. It also helps to go move in a place that’s not too packed or too light. The gym for example can work, if then you need to manage to isolate yourself mentally from the people around you. This can be hard however if you’re in the company of strangers in bright lights, which may feel like less of a safe space. I know a lot of people find boxing and other forms of more “physically aggressive” exercises to be helpful.

For me, it helps to go out and walk alone in a big park or in nature. Maybe this is a little bit weird but if you want to dance a little, or stomp harder, or run really aggressively uphill to physically struggle, then do that. Just be aware of your surroundings, but let the movements help you release pent up emotions.

The point is to let go, and release. Release your emotions, and move however your body needs to move, and use the music as a catalyst for your emotions. 

Emotional release without moving

Of course not all emotions are best released through vigorous physical movements. Some depressive moods, sadness, grief, nostalgia and other types of mellow feelings can perhaps be best suited for laying down and rocking back and forth to music, or just swaying the body from side to side. Closing your eyes can always help, as well as being in isolation. Allowing oneself to cry, even hulk, can be enjoyable. Or to scream, whisper, chant, sing, or hum along to the music. Again, there is no right or wrong way, as long as it’s allowing you to release your feelings.

Some people enjoy art therapy, which is when you draw, or paint, or craft something to express your emotions. This can be combined with fitting music, and perhaps you’ll even have a sentimental piece of art in your hands when you’re done.

As mentioned earlier, music can be combined with conversational therapy and journaling. Journaling is one of my favorite ways of processing emotions, just writing down one’s stream of consciousness, or sketching small things or random patterns, allowing your mind and hand to move on its own. Slow, melodic, or hypnotic ambient music can work well to combine with journaling.

And most likely, when you start to listen to music in this way, you may open up to an entirely new way of appreciating music and self-expression. It’s so valuable!

Leave a Reply