Although there are many things in the world wide web that people will disagree over, one thing that connects many is a love of music. It may not always be the same type of music, but music in its various forms is appreciated in one way or another by most cultures and people around the world.
Music is primarily consumed as a source of entertainment, a way for us to unwind after a long day at work or to help get us perked up for the day ahead. However, as well as just being a form of entertainment, there are numerous ways your heart, brain and overall health can benefit from music.
1. Music Increases Happiness
Music can be powerfully emotive – it can make you feel psyched up, excited, sad, pensive, happy… While you listen to your favourite music dopamine is released in your brain. Dopamine is connected to feeling good. It is one of the reasons you feel joy, excitement, happiness and other positive emotions.
Listening to music can actually give us the same level of mental stimulation that some drugs, sex or chocolate can, but without the risk of overdose, STI or diabetes. Win win win.
2. Music Reduces Anxiety And Stress
Anxiety and stress are common struggles for people in today’s society. Arguably , they always have been – society could just be more aware these days. Either way, one of the quickest and easiest ways to alleviate the stress is by listening to slow-tempo instrumental music.
Among other things, this can help decrease levels of the so-called stress hormone cortisol, which also affects your metabolism and immune response. So all in all, it’s a good idea to keep your cortisol supply stable! Music also aids in the stimulation of opioids in our brains, which release our internal ‘morphine’. This keeps us feeling happy, basically.
Many neurological disorders such as anxiety and depression are caused by an imbalance between our opioids and other chemicals and hormones in the brain, so doing what you can to regulate them is important for improving and maintaining your mental health.
3. Music Improves Quality Of Sleep
There’s no doubt that soothing music helps people relax. Although it won’t make a difference overnight, multiple studies have proven the soothing effects of music before bedtime. Ed Sheeran recently came first on a Spotify poll to see who was the most listened to artist whilst…falling asleep!
So if you’re finding it hard to get a decent night’s sleep, try listening to something relaxing like classical (maybe not Beethoven’s Fifth) or, apparently, some Ed Sheeran ought to do the trick.
4. Music Enhances Memory
It’s been scientifically proven that children who study music achieve better grades across the board. Learning music can aid in neurological tasks to do with pattern recognition and encoding memory. In other words, music can boost your overall intelligence.
Music and memory have a very interesting relationship. Let’s start by saying – music has been an effective mnemonic tool for millenia. We have encoded music with information, messages and ideas since the first lyrical pieces were ever created. The ancient epic The Odyssey, about the fall of Troy, was passed down in poetic form. As was the ancient Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita.
Tunes that we hear as kids, as nursery rhymes are sometimes ancient folk melodies. Some songs that we hear as adults are taken directly from classical compositions (All By Myself springs to mind. I wonder how Rachmaninov would have taken it!) The point is, music is ancient. And recyclable (hooray!).
There is strong scientific evidence to suggest that music has an astoundingly positive effect on people with neurological disorders such as dementia or other types of alzheimer’s disease. A familiar song can relax the patient, even enabling them to remember lyrics and sing along, to dance along and to smile! So why is it that a song has the ability to bring back memories that the patient has otherwise forgotten?
According to Robert Snyder, a composer and chair of the sound programme at the Art Institute of Chicago, “There are aspects of memory that are remembered implicity, that is, outside of consciousness. Implicit memory systems involve different parts of the brain than explicit memory systems”. As it is the explicit memory system that is damaged by degenerative disorders, this helps to explains why patients can connect clearly with the emotional or implicit memories that music can evoke.
There are myriad other links between memory and music – I may write a whole piece on this in the future. A lot of research is currently being conducted in the scientific community with regards to music therapy and treating alzheimer’s.
5. Music Reduces Pain
As music directly affects your hormones, it has often been referred to as a ‘natural’ antidepressant. This is largely because music can trigger the release of opioids in your brain, a chain reaction begins which culminates in a feeling of satisfaction. There is also evidence to suggest that music can stimulate the release of a hormone called norepinephrine (don’t worry I can’t pronounce it either) which can make you feel euphoric.
On the other hand, one could argue that the relationship between music and pain is purely psychological – that the music is an effective way of redirecting your sensation from the feeling of pain to the pleasure of the sound.
Either way, happy juices are a-flowing from our brains and that can only be a good thing! The mounting evidence certainly seems to show that music has a direct and positive effect on the human brain.
6. Music Helps Reduce Your Appetite
There is something of a friendly connection between eating and music. For example, if soft and gentle music is played during a meal, the rate of food consumption is slower than usual. This increases mindfulness and in turn, food appreciation, resulting in less over-eating. Those who choose restaurant playlists or own eating establishments know some of the psychological effects that music can have on their patrons.
Live music is generally considered to be distracting whilst dining, whereas the same music played over a sound system has been observed not to be. This is interesting – perhaps down to an overstimulation of sensory inputs?
Marketing professor Ronald E Milliman wrote a report in 1986 detailing how the tempo of music affected the amount of time and money 854 customer groups spent in a restaurant and bar. In The Influence of Background Music on the Behaviour of Restaurant Patrons some interesting results were recorded.
Whilst the tempo of the music didn’t affect the amount of food people ate, slow tempo music increased the bar spend per hour by almost 30% compared to fast tempo music. People also stayed for around 25% longer at their tables when slow music was playing.
What do you prefer to listen to whilst you eat? I listen to drum ‘n’ bass. That must be the reason for my subscription to Rennie’s…
7. Music Helps Keep You Fit
Music can be used to improve your physical performance. There are some very useful benefits that listening to music can provide both before and whilst exercising.
Costas Karageorghis and David-Lee Priest are two researchers at Brunel University in London. A few years ago they published an overview of over 60 studies investigating the relationship between music and exercise, with some very interesting results.
The research yielded generally very positive results – if music is listened to before exercising, the participant improves at performing simple tasks, at visualising and mentally planning their routine and increases blood flow. When music is listened to during activity, it has work enhancing effect and delays the feeling of fatigue. It also has the effect of lessening the intensity of fatigue, as well as beneficial psychological effects.
Although if you’re serious about training, research has shown the benefits of music can be limited. In a few cases music is actually distracting for the trainee and can yield negative results! For the most part though, if you’re not doing extreme high intensity training, music can help boost the benefits of exercise and help motivate us to keep fit.
There we are, just some of the ways music can benefit your heart, brain and health. At Bravura, we’re always mindful of the effect music has on us. It’s such a powerful tool of expression and therapy, and as this piece hopefully demonstrated, has many other day to day benefits.
If you’re looking to start reaping the benefits of playing music, why not book your free trial lesson with us today? Contact us using our form or just give us a call!
By Shane Chauhan