Sometimes, life’s solutions are simpler than we think. Want to feel upbeat? The remedy might just be listening to an upbeat catchy song and let your body, mind and soul be in tune with the flowing rhythm possessing your nerve endings. We all know the impact music can have on our moods: You may find yourself suddenly dancing in the kitchen or singing in the car when one of your favorite songs plays on the radio. Or maybe you feel a sense of peace when you hear a particular melody.
Research has shown that music does more than help us feel a certain way – it impacts our physical, mental and emotional health. It can even help improve medical outcomes and a patient’s quality of life. How can music do so much good? Music seems to “selectively activate” neurochemical systems and brain structures associated with positive mood, emotion regulation, attention and memory in ways that promote beneficial changes.
Children and parents don’t need to be musically gifted to take advantage of all the health benefits of music. Dancing to a favorite song is a fun way to lighten moods and get heart rates up. Teaching tunes to toddlers are also an effective way to help them remember simple lessons – just think of the alphabet song. Learning how to play a musical instrument can help teach self-discipline and improve confidence.
Exploring Music Therapy
To cultivate an even deeper connection between music and your health, consider a field called music therapy, which focuses on using music to improve patient outcomes.
Music therapy can take many forms. One is “guided imagery in music,” where a trained therapist helps a person uncover her strengths or challenges by listening to music the patient chooses. Sharing music also helps the patient feel like the therapist ‘really gets me.’
Other forms of music therapy may involve singing or playing instruments. The way each of us makes music can reveal something about us that a therapist can work with. Someone might play a drum in only one tempo or one dynamic, and that may represent their difficulty in being flexible in other areas of their life.
Music therapy is an intervention sometimes used to promote emotional health, help patients cope with stress, and boost psychological well-being. Some research even suggests that your taste in music can provide insight into different aspects of our personality. Music is a way to bypass our rational side and to get in touch with the emotional life we often keep hidden. If people are having trouble, there’s usually a way that music can help.
Some benefits of music include:
Music can reduce anxiety and stress
Relaxing music (music with a slow tempo or low pitch) can help individuals feel calm. Research has shown that it can help reduce stress and anxiety around medical and dental procedures.
Music is also a powerful tool for children with anxiety. It can help regulate emotions and provide a much-needed break from overstimulation.
If you or your child struggle with stress or anxiety, try to find the music that helps calm the mind and relax the body. It may take a few tries to find the music that works. Take the opportunity to connect with your child and talk about emotions. Discuss how the song makes you each feel and what you do and don’t like about the song.
Music can improve cognition
One study found that structured music lessons can improve language-based reasoning, short-term memory, planning and inhibition. It can also improve visual and spatial memory, underscoring the benefits of playing a musical instrument.
However you enjoy music, find a few simple ways to make music a part of your family’s everyday life to enjoy all the benefits it has to offer.
Music can promote positive moods and emotional states
Listening to music can release endorphins, the brain’s “feel-good” chemicals and elevate mood. It can boost the brain’s production of the hormone dopamine. This increased dopamine production helps relieve feelings of anxiety and depression. Music is processed directly by the amygdala, which is the part of the brain involved in mood and emotions.
If your child is feeling cranky or dragging his feet to complete a chore, try turning on some music to get energy levels up.
Music eases pain.
By reducing stress levels and providing a strong competing stimulus to the pain signals that enter the brain, music therapy can assist in pain management. Music can also meaningfully reduce the perceived intensity of pain, especially in geriatric care, intensive care or palliative medicine.
Music may help you sleep better
Insomnia is a serious problem that affects people of all age groups. While there are many approaches to treating this problem, research has demonstrated that listening to relaxing classical music can be a safe, effective, and affordable remedy.
In a study looking at college students, participants listened to classical music, an audiobook, or nothing at all at bedtime for three weeks. Researchers assessed sleep quality both before and after the intervention. The study found that participants who had listened to music had significantly better sleep quality than those who had listened to the audiobook or received no intervention.
Music is heart healthy
Research has shown that blood flows more easily when music is played. It can also reduce heart rate, lower blood pressure, decrease cortisol (stress hormone) levels and increase serotonin and endorphin levels in the blood.
From the substantial evidence that music offers numerous health benefits, many experts are calling for greater utilization of music therapy within health care settings.
Based on the research to date, there is certainly evidence that we have much more than just an emotional connection with music. So the next time you put on your favorite track, have a little dance around safe in the knowledge that you are likely to be reaping some health benefits. Now go curate that bomb playlist!