The Positive Impact of Music on Mental and Physical Health
Whether we are breaking a deadlift PR or writing your final paper for college, music improves our physical and mental abilities. It makes you smarter, happier, more productive and can help ease pain and improve recovery time.
Listening to music is very therapeutic while playing music is even better.
Before we start picking apart which music genre is best and why mumble rap will never be considered music in most people's eyes, let's see how music actually affects you.
A little later in the article, I'll go over some of the proven types of music that will help you live a happier and more fulfilling life. I may even suggest listening to Snoop Dogg, who knows!
Does Music Affect You Mentally?
Music has been around since the beginning of time; it's an important part of human culture.
All around the world, there are some universal responses to certain types of music. We all know that music can change our moods, get us motivated, and even help us concentrate.
I had to turn on some classical music so that I could start concentrating on this very article.
Advances in neuroscience have enabled researchers to quantitatively measure how music affects our brain. These discoveries are exciting and great news for everyone.
Music makes you smarter, happier, more productive, can trigger emotions in your brain (both good and bad), and it activates every part of your brain.
So how does music affect you mentally? Let's dive a little deeper.
Music Improves Your Mood
Listening to music enhances your work performance and mood. It's been shown that listening to music at work can make you a happier and more productive employee; especially when you are in control of the music choices.
Office workers who were allowed to listen to their preferred choice of music complete tasks more quickly and effortlessly and can come up with better ideas and processes than those who have no control over their music choices.
Science is now able to prove what we music lovers have always known - listening to upbeat music can improve your mood and productivity.
Listening and even playing music reduces chronic stress by lowering your cortisol. You know, the stress hormone that makes it difficult to lose weight.
Musicians Have Better Brains
When I say musicians, I mean those who play instruments... Not use autotune on a beat and mumble until the end of it.
Scientists have taken a look at professional musicians' brains, and their scans show they are different than the rest of ours. Their brains are more symmetrical, and the areas that are responsible for motor control, auditory processing, and spatial coordination are much larger.
They also have a larger corpus callosum, which after I had to look up to see what that was, is the band of fibers that enable both hemispheres of our brains to communicate with each other.
Why Musical Training on Young Brains is Beneficial
You've seen science prove that musicians have enhanced brain function and structure, but why is that?
Children that receive musical training do better in subjects like language, reading, math, and have better fine motor skills than those who do not practice music. When you start your child out on music training, there is a lot of evidence that shows even a little bit can go a long way.
A half-hour music lesson increases blood flow in the left hemisphere of the brain. A little as four years of music lessons were found to improve brain functions, even when tested a remarkable 40 years later.
If you are able to start music training before age seven, the brain enhancement has been shown to last a lifetime. Kids who sin in choir report having a much higher satisfaction in all of their classes, not just their music class.
If you think about it, music lessons such as playing drums (banging on things) and singing nursery rhymes have been given to babies before they could walk or talk.
In fact, the babies who were exposed to music lessons communicated better, smiled more, and showed earlier and more sophisticated brain responses to music.
It's never too late to start
Music protects against memory and other cognitive problems. Seniors who play an instrument or even sing and dance can rep the many physical, psychological, and social benefits from music.
It's never, ever too late to benefit from the effects of music.
Music Boosts Brain Chemicals
It's been shown that music enhances your brain function by stimulating the formation of certain brain chemicals.
Music increases a certain neurotransmitter called dopamine. This is an integral part of the pleasure-reward system and is responsible for the feel-good states we get from eating chocolate, having an orgasm, and a runner's high.
Playing music with others or enjoying live music stimulates the "trust molecule" and the "moral molecule" since it's building a bond and trust with others.
There has been evidence to show that the oxytocin increase experienced by music lovers can make them more generous and trustworthy.
Music Also Helps You Learn
Whether you are young or old, listening and playing music help you learn.
I never really understood music as a child, and I probably even made fun of the "band geeks" but little did I know they had an advantage over all of us.
It's saddening to see these music programs being dropped from schools due to not enough funding. It's widely believed by parents and educators that this is a mistake.
Whether you learn music in or out of school, you will start to excel in many ways.
- Improved language development and learning
- A small increase in IQ
- Improved test scores
- Increased brain connectivity
- Increased spatial awareness
Skills like spatial intelligence help people understand how things work together. Careers such as architecture, engineering, math, and computer science are all demanding for spatial intelligence.
Music Therapy Improves Your Quality of Life
While you don't have to be Mozart to benefit from playing music, anyone can recreationally play and gain many benefits. Musical therapists are trained to use music therapeutically to address patients' physical, emotional, cognitive, and social ailments.
This isn't another one of those "new-age hippy" things; there are measurable changes in certain neurotransmitters that follow after music therapy. It's been proven to treat people with autism, dementia, Alzheimer's, chronic pain, emotional trauma, and other mental disorders such as depression.
Other benefits of utilizing a musical therapist is a decrease in anxiety, anger, stress, and frustration, while improving your mood, concentration, and motivation.Music Therapy Helps Alzheimer's Patients
This rings close to home, as my mother is dealing with some mental ailments that we do not understand yet. But there is a very strong evidence that when patients here familiar music, they visible "light up" and sing along.
Advanced Alzheimer's patients eventually lose their ability to have interactive conversations and eventually stop speaking completely. Music therapy has been very successful in helping patients when everything else has failed.
Caretakers and family members report for most patients, music therapy is the best part of their day. It seems that musical memories can outlast other memories.
If you or someone you know is affected by any of these symptoms, I invite you to do some more research.
Does Music Affect You Physically?
As much as music affects your brain, you benefit physically from listening to music also.
Music is intrinsic to all cultures. It improves mental capacity and is also improves physical coordination and development.
Not all types of music have beneficial effects. Music that is too loud or too jarring can be distracting and compete for our attention that we are trying to use towards something else.
Let's check out how music affects us physically.
Music Heals Our Body
While it doesn't seem possible, music has healing effects on our bodies. These include:
- Pain relief
- Reduced blood pressure
- Improves heart function
- Promotes recovery for post-stroke patients
- It boosts your immune system
- Promotes an anti-seizure effect
- Improves postpartum well-being
Music relieves pain, even chronic pain, and has been shown to reduce the need for medication through childbirth, reduces postoperative pain, and can complement the use of anesthesia during surgery. There are several theories on why the music positively affects perceived pain. These include:
- Music produces a revulsive effect - I had to look this up, but it's basically the same as if you alternate cold and heat on an injury. It improves blood flow and decreases pain.
- It gives the patient a sense of control.
- It releases endorphins.
- Slower music will relax and slow your breathing and heartbeat.
When people ask me why I am almost constantly listening to music, it's hard to explain to them why. This subject is rather near and dear to me, I've been using music as a performance enhancer in school and in the gym for years.
Best Types of Music to Listen To
If you want to enjoy the benefits of what I've listed above, Spotify is an excellent place to start.
Spotify has millions of songs, including a nice lineup of brain and performance-enhancing music. Improve your mood, learn and concentrate better, and enjoying life are just a few clicks away.
They have free and paid accounts... I personally pay for the service. Trust me, it's worth it.
If you go to their "Browse" function, you can select a "Genres and Moods" section. They have created playlists specifically curated for mood and performance-enhancing benefits.
Melt away your distractions and improve your mood and focus, concentrate better with some self-hypnosis, or browse the "Mood" genre for upbeat or chill moods.
Once you find what music works best for you, it's pretty easy to create playlists. I have workout playlists, writing, and working playlists.
Wrapping It Up
It's scientifically proven that music helps mood and brain disorders such as Alzheimer's. It's also evident that this brain-boosting effect works in all stages of life.
With music, you can enjoy improved cognitive abilities, improve your mood, and ward off the effects of an aging brain.