Why do we love music, and what does it do for us? While music is great for creating an environment, listening to it actively and mindfully has many benefits, and can bring you a lot of joy. Well, for one thing, research has shown that music influences our minds in interesting ways.
Its ability to soothe is well-established, providing a relaxing effect on our minds and bodies that offers several health benefits, including:
• Improved mood
• Increased motivation
• Improved memory and brain stimulation
• Decreasing levels of stress hormones
• Better management of pain and fatigue
It can also act as a distraction, preventing our minds from focusing on worrying thoughts.
In a study conducted by the University of Helsinki in Finland, researchers studied the effects of listening to classical music on the human brain.
What they found was that listening to music caused both neuronal and physiological changes in the participants. The music enhanced gene expression in the secretion and transport of dopamine, synaptic neurotransmission, as well as memory and learning processes.
Many people have experienced the uplifting powers of music, unfortunately, music isn’t quite that powerful. It mostly helps in indirect ways, but those benefits can still make a big difference.
- Relieve stress and anxiety.
Listening to music can have a very relaxing effect on the body. The stress-reducing benefits that come from listening to music, especially slow-paced instrumental music can induce the relaxation response by helping lower blood pressure and heart rate as well as stress hormones. There is healing power in the interplay of melody, harmony, and rhythm, and you will certainly get more healing benefits if you give it your full attention.
In one study, published by the European Federation of International Medicine, researchers found that music could reduce anxiety by triggering stress-relievers on a biochemical level. In fact, when we hear a rhythm that we like, the brain releases dopamine in anticipation of the next beat — good music literally makes us feel high!
Nature sounds can also be very calming. Studies indicate that music blended with nature sounds helps people feel less anxious. Even people facing critical illness feel less anxiety after music therapy. This is why they’re often incorporated into relaxation and meditation music.
- It can help manage pain.
Studies have found that one of the best ways to manage pain naturally is by diverting attention elsewhere, including listening to music. Researchers found that during open-heart surgery, music has the ability to naturally increase oxytocin levels, providing natural pain relief. It’s also been used to manage pain that is associated with surgery, childbirth, cancer, and even burns treatments.
Within one related study, researchers concluded that music therapy can offer cancer patients beneficial effects, including improved mood, reduced pain, and reduced anxiety.
Interestingly, research has also shown that when singing, drumming, or dancing, this level of engagement increases your pain threshold, in comparison to just listening.
Specially trained music therapists use music to help alleviate pain in inpatient and outpatient settings. A 2016 meta-analysis of over 90 studies reported that music helps people manage both acute and chronic pain better than medication alone.
- Supports positive heart health
Believe it or not, when you listen to music, your body unconsciously responds. While studying heart patients confined to their beds, for instance, researchers found that just 30 minutes of music produced slower heart rates.
Music can influence heart rate and has even been shown to improve blood pressure levels. This makes sense, as music has the ability to lower feelings of stress and anxiety, which directly lowers blood pressure.
Research shows that when listening to music, the patients can alleviate anxiety, increase comfort and promote relaxation. All of this promotes positive heart health.
Listening to music can alter your breath rate, your heart rate, and your blood pressure, depending on the music’s intensity and tempo, Scientists say.
- It helps the symptoms of depression
Before you opt for medication, know that there are plenty of natural ways to improve mood long-term. From diet to exercise, meditation to herbal remedies, when you begin working with your body and mind, incredible things begin to happen.
A 2017 research review concluded that listening to music, particularly classical combined with jazz, had a positive effect on depression symptoms. Not into jazz or the classics? How about a percussion session instead. The same research review found that drum circles also had above-average benefits for people dealing with depression.
For those who are seeking less invasive options, researchers have found that music therapy helps. Not only has this therapy been shown to improve depressed mood, but it also reduces one’s heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure. Researchers found that individual music therapy with standard care was more effective than standard care alone.
- Can boost the immune system
Feel a cold coming on? Studies have found that music has the ability to influence the immune system, researchers analyzed more than 400 papers on the neurochemistry of music. Listening to music also tends to significantly decrease levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, and increase levels of the immune system’s first line of defense: the antibody immunoglobin A. This plays a critical role in the immunity of the body’s mucous system.
Boost your IQ by playing music yourself
Playing an instrument is a fun and creative way to boost your intelligence. Researchers involved in this study found that the longer a person spent playing instruments in their childhood, the faster their brains responded to the sound of speech. A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience showed that children who had music lessons while growing up developed faster brain responses to speech in their later years.
It involves skills like:
• Auditory perception
• Physical coordination
• Pattern recognition
And if you’re an experienced musician, challenge yourself by learning new songs or genres. If you don’t know how to play an instrument, remember that it’s never too late to start.
Given the important role memory plays in intelligence, it may benefit your IQ to finally pick up that musical instrument you’ve always wanted to learn.