Unless you are living under a rock, there must be a certain kind of music you are very fond of. Everyone has music that they prefer! And there’s just something about playing your favorite tunes. You get completely immersed into it. It lets you forget your worries and allows you to immerse in some goodness. But as it turns out, music is more than just amusing to the ears. Sure, we know that physical exercise is essential to stay fit and healthy. But what if you want to exercise your brain? Here’s one simple solution: Play some music! As it turns out, there are several impressive benefits of music on the brain. Keep reading to learn about them.
Charles Darwin said, “If I had my life to live over again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week.” Albert Einstein declared, “If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician.”
I’ve always been in awe of people who can sing and play guitar. Recent research shows that listening to music improves our mental well-being and boosts our physical health in surprising and astonishing ways. If we take a music lesson or two, that musical training can help raise our IQs and even keep us sharp in old age. Here are amazing scientifically-proven benefits of being hooked on music:
Listening to music is that it reduces stress. For instance, simply hearing a song that reminds you of a special person or place is enough to reduce levels of cortisol. (As we know, this stress hormone can wreak havoc on the body.) By listening to music, you can enjoy the release of dopamine and serotonin canceling out cortisol. From there, any reduction in stress helps you feel more in control of your life—and feelings of control can make you feel more hopeful and powerful. Simply put, listening to music truly makes you feel better.
Perhaps surprisingly, listening to music can even generate feelings of goodwill and connectivity. Oxytocin is another hormone that gets released when you listen to music. Known as the love hormone, it increases feelings of intimacy and trust. Neuroscience research shows that people with higher levels of oxytocin are kinder and more generous to others. In other words, while listening to music by yourself is good for you, doing so with others can be even better to foster greater connection.
The areas of the brain associated with processing music and memory are heavily connected. By listening to music, you open up a Pandora’s box of memories. As music activates the auditory cortex, it simultaneously stimulates the hippocampus. Studies exploring the impact of familiar songs on brain activity show that several brain regions activate, including those associated with memory, language, and emotion. As you hear a memorable song, your brain instantly brings that memory to mind, in part because emotions help form long-term memories. Meanwhile, the activation of the hippocampus strengthens, resulting in better memory.
RELAXES BLOOD VESSELS
Listening to music that brings you joy causes blood vessels to expand, increasing blood flow and improving cardiovascular health. The average upper-arm blood vessel diameter of people in the study increased 26 percent after listening to joyful music. A separate review of 26 studies covering almost 1,400 heart disease patients found that music reduced heart rate, blood pressure, and anxiety. Time to tune into your favorite beats.
Listening to happy music at work can help you complete tasks more quickly, especially if you’re doing something repetitive such as checking e-mail or filing documents. One study showed that the accuracy and efficiency of surgeons improved when they worked with the music of their choice in the background. Upbeat tunes help workers cooperate and make group decisions that contribute to the good of the team. This is the reason some songs get stuck in your head.
It turns out that another benefit of listening to music is that it helps you think faster. Since the entire brain is required to process music, an IQ boost can naturally result. To interpret and connect sounds captured by each ear, the brain’s hemispheres need to communicate. By listening to music, the corpus callosum grows stronger and has more neuronal connections. In turn, this results in a faster connective processing speed, allowing you to connect ideas and concepts more quickly. Furthermore, listening to lyrics improves language and vocabulary skills, as musicians use language in unique ways to evoke different ideas and emotions. Lyrics often resemble poems—and poetry requires the brain to focus to interpret the meaning of each word.
Feel like quitting a workout? Whether you’re running, biking, or walking, you’ll go farther if you pump up the jams, studies have found. Music distracts you from your discomfort and motivates you to stay with the beat. The effect is so profound that the author of a 2012 review examining the psychological effects of music on exercise called music “a type of legal performance-enhancing drug.”
AIDS SLEEPING WELL
Lullabies aren’t just for babies. Listening to music before bed can help you fall asleep faster, wake up less often during the night, and feel more rested in the morning. In one study, seniors with sleep problems who listened to 45 minutes of soft, slow music before bed reported a 35 percent improvement in the duration of their shut-eye and less dysfunction throughout the day. As we wrap up the many benefits of listening to music, you might be wondering what type of music is best for your brain. According to the so-called Mozart effect, listening to classical music increases intelligence. However, there’s actually “little evidence left for a specific, performance-enhancing Mozart effect.” So, in sum, listen to what you love, try new things, and move to the beat of your own drum. That may include music with or without lyrics, songs that are fast-paced or calming, or a mix of any and all genres and types.