We all know how much of an effect music can have on our mindsets. You may find yourself suddenly dancing in the kitchen or singing in the car when one of your favorite songs plans on the radio. Music has a profound ability to influence our mood, whether through memories or simply how it makes us feel. This has led researchers around the world to investigate the healing power of music.
Research has found that music does more than just affect our mood, it can impact our physical, mental, and emotional health. Senior advisor of policy and research at the American Music Therapy Association, Barbara Else explains, “We have such a deep connection to music because it is ‘hardwired’ in our brains and bodies. The elements of music – rhythm, melody, etc. – are echoed in our physiology, functioning and being.”
Even something as simple as listening to your favorite song can alter your brain chemistry. A recent study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that listening to music you enjoy causes your brain to release more dopamine, a mood-enhancing chemical. However, the health benefits of music go beyond mental health. As a result, some health experts have called for music therapy to be more widely incorporated into health care settings.
In fact, studies have shown that music can help with recovery from brain injuries. A 2008 study from the University of Helsinki in Finland discovered when stroke patients listened to music every day for 2 hours had better verbal memory, attention, and a more positive mood than those who listened to an audiobook or nothing at all. Similarly, a 2011 study from the Thad E. Saleeby Center found that listening to music helped decrease or even eliminate seizures in participants suffering from epilepsy.
In the same way, numerous studies have shown that music can have important benefits for those suffering from pain. In March 2014, researchers from Denmark found that listening to calming music “reduced pain and increased functional mobility significantly” among 22 patients with fibromyalgia. Moreover, a 2013 review shows research suggesting that music induces the release of opioids to help ease pain.
In addition to helping with pain, music is an effective stress reliever. However, this effect is dependent on what type of music you listen to, according to Dr. Daniel Levitin of McGill University in Canada. Dr. Levitin explains, “Stimulating music produces increases in cardiovascular measures, whereas relaxing music produces decreases. These effects are largely mediated by tempo: slow music and musical pauses are associated with a decrease in heart rate, respiration and blood pressure, and faster music with increases in these parameters.” This is why listening to fast-paced music makes you feel energized, while slower music relaxes you.
Furthermore, studies have shown that listening to music can have the following positive effects on your health:
- Improves mood. Studies show that listening to music can benefit overall well-being, help regulate moods, and create happiness and relaxation in everyday life.
- Lessens anxiety. In studies of people with cancer, listening to music combined with standard care lowered anxiety compares to those who only received standard care alone.
- Enhances exercise. Studies suggest that music can boost aerobic exercise, increase mental and physical stimulation, and enhance overall performance.
- Improves memory. Research has shown that repetitive components of rhythm and melody help our brain form patterns that improve memory.
- Provides comfort. Music therapy has also been utilized to help improve communication, coping, and expressions of feelings in patients who have a serious illness and who are in end-of-life card.
- Improves cognition. Listening to music can also help people with Alzheimer’s recall seemingly lost memories and even help maintain some mental abilities.
- Helps children with an autism spectrum disorder. Studies of children with autism spectrum disorder who received music therapy showed improvement in social responses, communication skills, and attention skills.
- Soothes premature babies. Live music and lullabies may impact vital signs, improve feeding behaviors and sucking patterns in premature infants, and may increase prolonged periods of quiet–alert states.
Ultimately, music has an incredible influence when it comes to human beings. The next time you turn on the radio, you can know that you’re enjoying the healing power of music while listening to your tunes. Taking time to listen to a few songs at least once a day can help you take advantage of the many benefits music can have on your body, mind, and overall health.