Table of Contents
- 7 Ways Music Can Help You Live a Happier and Healthier Life
- Wrapping it up
You know how relaxing and soothing music can be.
We know instinctively that it is beneficial for our health.
Most of us know that music can help our mood, sleep, and help us go the extra mile when we are running or training.
I have always had a strange relationship with music. It started badly with my piano teacher who refused to let me take the exam because I had not practiced enough!
After slamming the door, I started to take it seriously, passed the exam and went on to study the organ for four years. Things were beginning to look up.
Over the years, I realized that music was beneficial to my health in so many ways. It began to be an integral part of my life.
It helped me with insomnia, with recovering from anxiety attacks and also in lifting my mood when things got really tough.
If you read on, you too can discover how music can be a boon to your health and way of life, and the various health benefits of music therapy.
You will learn how your memory, fitness, mood, pain relief, and studying can all benefit when you take music more seriously. That’s what I should have done when I was a teenager.
“Ah, music,” he said, wiping his eyes. “A magic beyond all we do here!” ~ J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
7 Ways Music Can Help You Live a Happier and Healthier Life
Here are seven lesser-known health benefits when you listen to or play more music.
You will be inspired and will reach for your earphones more often during the day. Let the music play!
1. Music Can Relieve Pain
Imagine not having to take as many painkillers when you wrestle with those aches and pains.
There is now research which shows that music can indeed help us do that.
But how can music actually relieve pain or, at least, take our minds off it, which is half the battle?
We all have different levels of threshold when it comes to pain. It is partially a subjective sensation.
The interesting thing is that researchers now know that the brain uses the same pathways to process music and pain.
To put it simply, if we can divert some of the painful sensations by occupying them with music, the pain will be relieved.
The more we are engaged and distracted by the music, the lesser will be the pain we would normally experience.
Whenever I have a headache, I switch on Vivaldi or Mozart and listen. It usually helps to lessen the pain.
Researchers are also recommending that more active listening, such as identifying a change in a familiar tune or melody is very helpful.
Dr. David Bradshaw of the Pain Research Center, at the University of Utah, found that there was a reduction of pain levels of up to 17% when subjects had to identify changes in the a familiar childhood song, Mary Had a Little Lamb.
“Music touches us emotionally, where words alone can’t.” ~ Johnny Depp
2. Music Can Help With Restoring Memory
What is going on in the brain when you listen to your favorite music?
Think of rhythm, melody, pitch, and beat. These are all lighting up different areas of the brain to help us enjoy the experience. Add in the words of a song and even more complex functions are happening.
The motor cortex in the brain gets involved if we tap our fingers or feet to the rhythm.
When the brain is damaged by dementia or Alzheimer’s, a lot of these functions are still intact, and that is why music can re-awaken them and help patients to regain their memory.
It is also the reason why Dr. Oliver Sacks, the author of Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, often sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to his patients who had lost the power of speech. They were able to reconnect through the music.
“The past, which is not recoverable in any other way, is embedded, as if in amber, in the music, and people can regain a sense of identity.” – Oliver Sacks, M.D.
Watch the video here where the moving story of Henry shows how playing the music he loved brought him back to life and made him more sociable.
Man In Nursing Home Reacts To Hearing Music From His Era ~ YouTube video
It certainly resonates with me as my grandmother always cheered up and was brighter when she heard her favorite music.
“Music is the wine that fills the cup of silence.” ~ Robert Fripp
3. Music Can Help You Lose Weight
If you listen to pop music or other fast beat music while eating, you are likely to eat more and in a shorter time. This will certainly not help you with your weight loss program!
This is what researchers from Purdue University found when they investigated the eating habits of people in restaurants.
Their study showed that if you eat with more relaxing classical music in the background, the whole experience becomes a much more enjoyable one.
You eat more slowly, and this is a big factor while controlling your calorie intake. You also tend to take smaller mouthfuls.
Now I know why background music in restaurants is such an important part of the surroundings.
However, I always remember not to have music on in the background when a friend of mine comes to dinner. She is one of the very few people who really dislikes music.
They are called music anhedonics. They just do not respond to music at all – in fact, my friend has told me it really gets on her nerves.
“Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” ~ Plato
4. Music Can Help You Study And Learn Better
Did you know that lifelong learning will help you to live a longer and healthier life?
A Mayo Clinic survey of over 2,000 seniors in the USA found that those who used their brains in reading, studying, doing quizzes, or other mental activities may be at less risk of developing dementia. Can music help?
There is lots of controversy about whether listening to music can really help you to remember, focus, and generally study more effectively.
I am in the group that cannot concentrate while music is playing. It distracts me, and I cannot get anything done nor can I concentrate at all.
This has been borne out by a study done by Dr. John Perham of the University of Wales who found that music seems to inhibit learning by rote or memory.
He also found that reading comprehension was negatively affected when listening to song lyrics. He maintains that there is a semantic overload from the words on the page and the words you hear in the song.
However, there are lots of studies that show music may actually help you to focus and concentrate when learning.
The Johns Hopkins School of Education has published a very comprehensive review of how and when music can be used in the classroom and more informal settings.
5. Music May Lower Your Blood Pressure
Are you worried about your blood pressure? If you are, maybe you are trying to reduce your salt intake.
A much easier and more enjoyable way is to try listening to music while breathing properly for about half an hour a day.
This was the good news from a joint Italian/UK study. Researchers showed that the patients were able to lower their blood pressure by listening to various types of music.
Slower classical music such as Verdi, Puccini, Beethoven, and Schubert was more beneficial for the patients. Rock and pop music had a little beneficial effect and in some cases, actually increased the blood pressure.
“Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life.” ~ Ludwig van Beethoven
6. Music Fuels The Feel Good Factor
You know how we seek pleasure in food, exercise, drugs, and sex. All these activities will release the dopamine chemical, which gives us that pleasant and rewarding feeling.
But these pastimes are costly in terms of time, effort and money, not to mention side effects when drugs and overeating are involved.
Dr. Robert Zatorre is a neuroscientist at McGill University. His work on how music helps to release more dopamine is fascinating. His team used brain imaging, and they found that while subjects listened, they experienced those chill moments, and that was when more dopamine was released.
“I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.” ~ Billy Joel
7. Singing May Help You To Bond
Mental health depends a lot on how socially involved we are. Social inclusion and making friends will be crucial. We all look for ways of bonding with potential friends.
One great way is to join a choir or a singing class. From my own personal experience of singing in church choirs, I certainly found that this helped to forge friendships.
Researchers at Oxford University found that this was indeed the case.
They collaborated with the Workers’ Educational Association in the UK. They asked them to set up four classes in singing, and three others in crafts and creative writing.
After the surveys had been finished at the end of the seven-month course, they found that those in the singing classes were able to bond much more quickly, and they felt this from the very beginning. Singing was the great ice-breaker.
Staying connected on Facebook is not nearly as effective as a real live face-to-face connection, which you can get when singing in a class or choir.
Researchers were convinced that playing, dancing, and singing together have always bonded people in a special way. Their study proved this very well.
There are lots of studies that show singing will benefit your health overall, and you will live a longer and happier life.
Wrapping it up
As we have seen, music, singing and also playing a musical instrument has enormous benefits for our physical and mental health. Remind yourself to do the following more often:
- Listen to more music and sing more
- Select the best music for you
- Make your favorite playlists for working out, winding down, and for lifting your mood
- Think seriously about taking music lessons or joining a choir
- Encourage your loved ones to do the same
MUST READ: Guide To Healthy Living – The MEN Approach
Over to you –
Let us know in the comments about your views on the health benefits of music what kind of music keeps you happy and healthy. Could you live without it? I doubt it!