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7 Health Benefits Of Music That Can Transform Your Life

How to use music to make your life happy and healthy

- | 63 Aha! comments | Posted in category: Health & Wellness

7 Health Benefits of Music That Can Transform Your Life
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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

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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.

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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.

Useful tip: The next time you have to endure a dental visit or minor operation, take along your iPod and earphones. It might be better to choose your favorite tracks but ones which are new recordings or versions. Can you spot any differences? You can also listen to more music in the post-operative phase instead of taking those painkillers.

Do Read10 Stress Headache Relief Techniques That Work

“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.

Useful tip: If you have a loved one who has dementia or Alzheimer’s, make a point of playing them their favorite songs and music from their youth. You will be surprised how a personalized playlist can help patients escape the loneliness of dementia.

Related ReadHow To Take Care Of Your Mind And Memory

“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.

Useful tip: Avoid restaurants with loud music. It’s a ploy they use to get people to eat faster and increase their turnaround times!

Recommended ReadShocking Sleep Deprivation Effects You Need To Know

“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.

Useful tip: Try it when you are learning. If music helps, go for it. Some experts recommend Baroque music to help with attention while others such as Celtic Fantasy by Daniel Kobialka can be useful for better focus. Try Brian Eno’s Music for Airports if your flight is delayed or if you have to study really hard. I know some people who love it.

“Sing like no one is listening, love like you’ve never been hurt, dance like nobody’s watching and live like it’s heaven on earth.” – Mark Twain

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.

Useful tip: Listen to some more classical music every day but don’t give up your blood pressure pills as more studies need to be done. My doctor still needs to be convinced, but she says that it can do me no harm. She says that about most things, anyway!

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“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.

Useful tip: If you want to feel better because you are a little down, use the following list of music passages to decide which ones work for you and then make your own play list. These are the pieces which were most popular among Zatorre’s research participants. They are listed here. You can get a 30-second sample of each one by clicking on the title.

Do Read6 Bad Ways To Reduce Stress You Should Avoid

“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.

Useful tip: Even if you cannot sing very well, get involved with a sing-along or karaoke group. Failing those, there is always the shower at home! Or you can sing in the car like I do. Nobody will hear you unless you have the windows open.

"Music can change the world because it can change people." ~ Bono

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

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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!

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63 Comments - Read and share thoughts

  1. Cris Gardner

    August 30, 2017 at 2:52 pm

    I definitely agree that music fuels the feel good factor. I usually maintain a playlist intended for different situations. It adds spice to life. Just imagine if you are on a long drive without music. How boring is that? But if you are listening to your favorite playlist during travel, it makes the long drive enjoyable, especially if you will also sing together with your family and friends.

  2. Therese Roth

    July 9, 2016 at 2:56 pm

    Thank you for this revealing article!

    I have long suspected that music played in the solfeggio tones has an absolutely profound healing effect on all living beings, and am utterly fascinated by ancient writings on the subject of sound patterns on matter and life….

    In many of these works, it is stated that the whole universe was created through sound, through resonance.

    Following this thought, I have many ideas for projects involving singing and instrumental music, especially in groups, that I will be exploring in future, and it is so exciting to be reinforced through these studies, experience and information about the effects of music!

    Thanks for your work on this…..

    Greetings
    Therese

  3. Tauseef Alam

    May 8, 2016 at 4:06 pm

    I always listen to music whenever I feel sad or depressed. It completely changes your mood. Listening to your favorite tracks especially your childhood favorites makes you feel awesome.

    Interesting article. The benefits you mentioned here sounds very true.

    • Robert Locke

      May 9, 2016 at 1:40 pm

      Thanks Tauseef for joining the discussion and glad that you also benefit from music. I hope to investigate some more health benefits of music and maybe write another post.

      Watch this space!

      Robert

  4. Malcolm W

    April 28, 2016 at 3:32 pm

    Hi Robert,

    A great article, well researched and presented.
    Music has always formed an important part of my life. It touches us in so many different ways and on so many levels (both consciously and subconsciously); even for many who would say they are not particularly interested in music.
    And, of course, music is a truly international language.

    Many thanks for such a valuable piece of writing.
    Malcolm 🙂

    • Robert Locke

      April 29, 2016 at 11:23 am

      Thanks very much Malcolm and really happy you enjoyed the post.

      Robert

  5. Toby Nwazor

    April 21, 2016 at 12:15 pm

    Hello Robert,

    I have been away for a while but your post caught my attention immediately I logged in.

    You see, I love music a whole lot. I remember three years ago, I didn’t have any music player and I always knew something was wrong. One day, I got it and I played one of my cool songs, and I was like “wow, where have you been mehn”. lol

    I love your fourth point because it works for me a lot. Presently I have music playing in the background as I read/work and I can’t imagine not having it. Some people complain that it distracts them, well, that’s them.

    I am glad about the other points you wrote about. I never knew music helps with pain or with memories and the other stuff. But it is good to know. Now you have converted me to a die-hard ‘music player’. By the way, I am a chorister, and being a good singer means that you really have to listen to a lot of music, so you can see, I can’t really help it.

    Music is life y’all.

    Thanks for writing this

    • Robert Locke

      April 29, 2016 at 11:21 am

      Thnaks so much Toby for joining in and really glad this post resonated with you. As for being a chorister, I can relate to that so maybe I should join a choir again. Happy music to you!




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7 Health Benefits Of Music That Can Transform Your Life

by Robert Locke time to read: 9 min