How does it affect your health?
We all have different songs that remind us of something, whether it is good or bad depends on the association that we’ve made between that song and the event we link it to. Music is a very powerful tool that our brains use in processing memories. Why is this the case? What other health benefits does music provide?
For most people, music is a big part of their life. On average, each one of us listens to five hours of music a day. Typically, we have our favorite kind of music and this is our go to when picking something to listen to. We can use it to match a certain occasion or attain a desired mood. Music can definitely bring our moods up or down. In some cases, it can even tell us a story. While everyone’s taste in music is different, we are all affected by it in some way.
In order to understand how music affects your health we need to look closer at what it does to your body. The autonomic nervous system is the part of the nervous system that controls your blood pressure, heart rate and brain function. The limbic system is the part of your brain that controls feelings and emotions. Both of these systems react positively to music. This is because it intensifies positive response through the reward centers of your brain by stimulating the release of dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for providing you with a feel-good sensation. Dopamine has been strongly linked to motivation, which means it assists in our ability to learn and remember information. In addition to dopamine, music causes your brain to release endorphins, which can help enhance your vascular health. Music also aids in decreasing the amount of cortisol (stress hormone) in your body, which in turn, reduces stress and anxiety. Cortisol is associated with weakening your immune system, increasing your risk of heart disease, interfering with your ability to learn and remember, decreases your bone density and elevates your blood pressure. Another body function that profits from listening to music is your immune system. IgA (an important antibody your body uses to fight diseases) has been shown to be increased significantly after listening to soothing music. This type of music has also been shown to decrease blood levels of interleukin-6 (a protein that has been implicated in higher mortality rates, diabetes and heart problems).
According the American Society of Hypertension, if you listen to music, such as classical, Celtic or raga, your blood pressure is markedly lower. Several studies have found that if you listen to faster tempo music, your heart rate and breathing rate become elevated versus when you listen to slower tempo music, they decrease. This change still holds true even if you don’t like the style of music. This is why fast music motivates people while exercising to work harder, which improves performance and increases endurance. Part of this increase in performance is the result of your body movements becoming synchronized to the music allowing your body’s oxygen usage to become more efficient. Some newer studies are also finding that listening to music after a workout can speed your recovery because your muscles are more relaxed.
Music is structural, mathematical and architectural because it is based on the relationship between the notes. In order to make sense of it, your brain is required to do a great deal of computing. This is why if you learn how to play a musical instrument as an adult, your attention, memory and problem-solving skills will likely improve. It is also helpful to listen to new types of music because it challenges your brain in a way that music you listen to regularly doesn’t. This too can help to increase your mental sharpness and memory as you age. Music doesn’t just benefit adults. When music education is started at an early age, it stimulates a child’s brain and this aids in the development of better verbal, communications and visual skills. The best way to think of music is as exercise for your brain.
In order to expand cognitive performance, the music must improve your emotional state first. The key is that you have to find the type of music enjoyable and it works best if there aren’t any lyrics. Music, such as classical or easy-listening, that has a 60 beats per minute beat pattern activates both the left and right parts or your brain. This simultaneous activation, along with the release of dopamine, can aid in studying to maximize learning and retention of information. The information that is being studied is activating the left side of the brain while the music is activating the right. Listening to music boosts the duration and intensity of your concentration. Just remember not to finding music that is too relaxing because this can cause you to feel sleepy. However, if you have difficulty sleeping, it might be beneficial to listen to calming music for about 45 minutes before you go to sleep because it can decrease your anxiety level, lower your blood pressure, decrease your heart and respiratory rate, relax your muscles and distract you from any thoughts that might make it challenging for you to sleep.
Classical music and meditative sounds are particularly uplifting, so they have been linked to reducing feelings of depression. Relaxing music can also reduce anxiety as much as getting a massage. Music that has a slow tempo and low pitch, without lyrics or loud instrumentation are best suited for this purpose. Slow tempo music can induce a meditative state by altering your brainwave speed. This alteration can mimic brainwave activity that is similar to when you are meditating without music or are in a hypnotic state. This is part of the reason that music facilitates our ability to cope with pain by reducing the perceived intensity. The key is the music needs to be a genre that the person enjoys. This is why it is recommended that you listen to music before surgery in order to help you relax and after surgery to ease any stress and pain. Some people say it is more successful than medication in decreasing their anxiety before surgery. Also, music has been demonstrated to be valuable in treating cancer patients. By listening to music, it helps them to reconnect with the healthy parts of themselves and this allows them to face their condition or disease-related suffering with more easily. It can aid in the recovery of stroke patients. Our ability to strongly associate music with memory is due to the part of the brain that processes music is located next to the part that controls memory. So, when stroke patients listened to music, their verbal memory and attention span are likely to improve quicker and surpass those who don’t listen to music.
Music therapy is the evidence-based plan to use music in clinical situations to aid people in reaching a desired health outcome and it is performed by a licensed music therapist. Music intervention is a broad term to describe musical interactions that provide some benefit, but aren’t necessarily music therapy. There are numerous studies being conducted to see how music can be helpful in treating various conditions. What we do know is that music is sound and sound is vibration created from moving air. These sound vibrations are absorbed by your body and can possibly help with a number of things. One area that is currently being researched is the use of sound vibrations in helping patients with Parkinson’s disease, fibromyalgia and depression. Rhythmic brain activity in the thalamus and outer cortex play a role in these conditions. It is thought that we can use low-frequency vibrations from music to disrupt this brain activity, it could help with these conditions. Vibroacoustic therapy is when low frequency sound, like a low rumble, produce vibrations and they are applied directly to the body. Typically, a person lies on a mat or sits in a chair that are embedded with speakers that transmit these vibrations at specific frequencies generated by a computer. The ultimate goal would be to develop this so that it would be defined in concrete dosages, which would allow it to be prescribed as music therapy. This would help to make vibroacoustic therapy a protocol in treating neurologically-based conditions.
Another way music is being explored as providing health benefits is in dealing with the processing of emotions, trauma and grief. We all have songs that we are deeply connected to and appreciate. If you analyze the lyrics of these songs to find why you resonate with it, you can gain insight to your state of mind. By doing it this way, you are dealing with emotions, thoughts and experiences in a less-threatening manner. This process is called lyric analysis. Song writing is a great way to express emotions and thoughts in a positive manner. In addition, music has been shown to reduce the intensity, frequency and duration of migraines and chronic headaches. Also, if you listen to soft music in the background while eating, it cues you to slow down, so you consume less food because you are better aware of your body’s signals telling you when you are full. On the flip side, listening to upbeat music can help you perform better in high-pressure situations.
Music has numerous health benefits, such as lowering stress levels, raising states of consciousness, changing moods, accessing different states of mind and developing the brain. When you listen to music almost no area of your brain is left untouched. This means that music’s effects are widespread and the potential uses of music as a health aid are numerous. So, when listening to music, pay attention to how your body feels and pick whatever works best for you depending on what you are trying accomplish. Remember, no other stimulus on earth can simultaneously engage your brain as widely as music does. The best part is that it happens whether you’re listening to it, playing an instrument or singing, even if it is only in the car or shower. So, go crank up your favorite tunes and enjoy the health benefits!