Music Is Great for Mental Health!
Music therapy is a growing field, which can help many different people with different ailments. One of the best things about this field is its accessibility — anyone can listen to music, and anyone can use it to improve their health. So, let’s unlock some of the benefits of the simple act of popping a pair of headphones on and listening to our favorite tunes!
Music Boosts Mood
Have you heard of a dopamine release? Music is a great contributor to it! Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, also known as the ‘feel-good hormone.’ More dopamine is generally associated with a better mood. A study conducted at the McGill University in Montreal found that levels of dopamine were significantly higher when people were listening to music, and even more if it was music that they knew and loved. Maybe that “guilty pleasures” playlist you’ve been hiding all this time is actually good for you!
Dopamine not only makes you feel good, but it also motivates you and gives you confidence. So, in essence, listening to music you love makes everything feel better. What’s more, this same study discusses how the first time you listen to a song, you’re more likely to experience what’s known as “musical frisson” or chills over your body. Have you ever been to a concert where the singer hits just the right note to send goosebumps up your back? This feeling represents the peak dopamine level that can be reached from listening to music. Now, this frisson occurs most often on the first listening of a beautiful piece, so why not set our comfort zone aside for a minute and allow ourselves to experience new music to stimulate our minds?
Music Reduces Stress
Beyond making you feel good, music also has the secondary effect of curbing stressful feelings. Say you’re driving home from the school run, and little Timmy in the back keeps pouring his juice box down his brother’s back. They’re both screaming and saying words that you definitely didn’t teach them, there’s a bubbling feeling of stress erupting in your chest, and you’re questioning some of your life choices! What’s most likely happening is that your cortisol levels are rising.
Cortisol is the hormone that regulates feelings of stress. Researchers have found that cortisol levels can be directly influenced by music. Now, this is useful for several reasons, not least for stressful car journeys! This knowledge can also have a great effect on your personal life. Next time you feel a little bit stressed, put on some of your favorite tracks, take a moment to relax, and listen. Those feelings might just recede and allow you to enjoy the finer things in life.
Music Improves Focus
It lowers stress, it improves mood; can music do anything else? Well, apparently yes. On top of affecting hormone production in the brain, music also has an incredible ability to improve focus and concentration. This happens for a very interesting reason. The human mind is made up of two attention systems: the conscious and the unconscious. The conscious system is what the mind is actively focusing on — for instance, writing an article for your favorite holistic health service. The unconscious system refers to the other part of the mind which takes in all of the external, generic information around us, like the sound of an upstairs neighbor apparently moving furniture at 6 a.m. on a Wednesday. Putting on some instrumental music can help to block out any unwanted external stimuli and can allow your conscious mind to focus on the task at hand. Cool, right?
Music Helps You Relax
Now, we’ve already discussed how music can reduce your stress levels, but there’s another intriguing way that music can help us to relax. Science tells us that the tempo and frequency of music can synchronize to the internal processes in the body and the mind. This means that music with a tempo of 60 beats per minute can synchronize with the brain, causing something known as alpha brainwaves. These are electromagnetic waves that the conscious brain generates when we’re feeling relaxed. Have you ever been listening to a piano sonata and found yourself sinking even deeper into the couch? This may be because of the tempo synchronizing with your brainwaves.
This state of relaxation can be helpful for studying, reading, or even when taking part in spiritual activities such as mediation. And this isn’t limited to the alpha waves, as music at other tempos can have different effects on the brain! For instance, slower music may induce another brainwave called the delta brainwave. This is a wave that can help to induce sleep. There’s a plethora of relaxing music available online if you’re interested. Look up “alpha-music” for the daytime and “delta-music” for the night on your favourite streaming service and you may find yourself feeling some deep relaxation.
Let’s Talk About Physical Health!
So, we’ve talked about how music can affect your everyday mental health, but what about your physical health. How can music help promote a healthy lifestyle in a physical sense?
1. Just Dance!
One of the best things about music is that it can inspire us to get out of our seats and dance. Know that feeling when we listen to our favorite song and get that toe tapping away? Did you also know that dance is a highly praised method of exercise? It’s proven to develop cardiac function, tone muscles, and improve coordination. And not only that, but the social aspects of dance are great for you too. Whether it’s salsa, tap, or a cheeky cha-cha slide, dancing with other people can help to cultivate a sense of community and spirituality, and develop teamwork and communication skills, all while improving your personal fitness as an added bonus!
2. Music Can Improve Sleep
Research shows how music affects brain waves and hormones, resulting in the secondary effect of improving our ability to sleep, but there are also many other ways that calming music can enhance sleep. Some factors that can contribute to sleep loss include physical pain, unconscious processes in the autonomic nervous system, and troubling thoughts at night. But did you know that music can help with all of these issues? Music is proven to curb physical pain, distract the unconscious mind, and calm the nervous system by lowering heart rate, reducing blood pressure and breathing rate. So, if you’re having trouble nodding off, try listening to some relaxing sounds, stimulate those delta-waves, and get those z’s you deserve.
So, it sounds (pun intended) like music can help your body in a wide variety of ways. It can affect your mental, physical, social, and even spiritual health, but what can you do to bring more music into your life? Here are a few fun ways to incorporate music into your day-to-day.
- Listening to a new song every morning.
- Listening to relaxing music while you travel.
- Listening to music (especially delta-wave music) when it’s time to go to bed.
- Listening to familiar music.
- Signing up for dance classes with your friends!
Music is something that can bring joy and wellbeing to many aspects of your life. It can have positive effects on mood and concentration, and even help you to relax. So, why not grab a nice set of headphones, plug in, and enjoy?