Music has been an integral part of human civilization for over 55,000 years and continues to be an important aspect of almost every culture on Earth. It’s so dominant that for many people, their life would be empty without their melodies. At the most basic level, music is just a series of sounds. But research has found it’s much more profound than us hearing noise. Music can have some amazing effects on both your mind and your body.
10. It Reduces Stress
One of the most well known benefits of listening to music is that it reduces stress. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to support this and probably anyone who is reading this can remember a time in their life when they were stressed out and felt better after listening to a song or an album. But why does music have such a drastic effect on someone’s stress level?
One reason comes down to cortisol, which is a hormone that’s released when someone is stressed out. A high level of cortisol isn’t good for the body and is linked to a number of issues, including problems with memory and concentration as well as weight gain. It’s linked to depression, heart disease, and any other problems related to stress that are believed to stem from high cortisol levels.
Music effects stress because it has the amazing ability to lower cortisol levels, which decreases the feeling of stress in the body. The key to relieving stress through music is simply to follow your own natural urges; pick music that you love and fits your mood.
9. It Helps With Depression
Music can have a profound effect on depression. It’s been found to aid in the treatment of depression by having sufferers play an instrument or sing, and can also help people with depression if they simply listen.
For example, researchers at Queen’s University Belfast got a group of 128 youths who were all being treated for emotional, developmental, or behavioral problems. Half of them received the usual care, and the other half were given that same care, along with music therapy. The researchers found that the students taking the music therapy had their self-esteem improve greatly and their depression drop significantly.
On the other end of the age spectrum, it’s been shown to decrease both anxiety and depression in people over the age of 65. So if you’re having a rough day, turn up your favorite song and belt out the words. You might be surprised at how good you feel.
8. It Helps People Sleep
In order to see how music effects sleeping habits, researchers at the University of Taiwan gathered a group of 60 elderly people with sleeping problems. The 60 seniors were given the choice of listening to slow, soft music, or nothing at all for 45 minutes before bedtime. The results were that in the first week, the people who listened to the music reported 26% improvement, and that eventually rose to 35%. They found that they slept better and longer, and also felt better the next day.
The music they used was about 60-80 beats-per-minute, which is stuff like contemporary jazz or folk. The reason is that the music helped lower the people’s heart and respiratory rate. So next time you’re having problems sleeping, just throw on some James Taylor or Diana Krall before you’re going to bed. If you don’t hate that type of stuff, it should mellow you out enough to sleep.
7. It Helps with the Vascular Health
While music does reduce stress and help with other parts of the brain, researchers weren’t sure if it causes any physical change in the body. Researchers at the University of Maryland Medical Center decided to see how music impacts the endothelium function of the body. The endothelium function forms the linings of blood cells; the better the endothelium function works, the healthier the vascular system.
During the study, they had participants listen to joyful music as well as music meant to provoke anxiety. The participants also watched a video that would make them laugh, and another that would make them feel relaxed. Then they measured the flow mediated dilation (FMD), which measures the endothelium function. They found that the joyful music raised the FMD by 26 percent, which was higher than anything else. Laughter made it rise by 19 percent, while it was an 11 percent increase for the relaxation video.
The conclusion is that joyful music may be good for your heart, your veins, and your blood vessels. So don’t let anyone give you a hard time for still liking “Happy” by Pharrell Williams; you’re just trying to be healthy.
6. It Helps With Diet and Exercise
Good news for those trying to lose weight: one way to help keep the calorie level down and give you an edge in exercising may just come from listening to the right music.
In order to see how music can affect eating habits, two researchers from Cornell University took over a Hardee’s fast food restaurant. They gave half the restaurant a makeover to make it look like a fine-dining restaurant, which included playing slow jazz music, while the other half of the restaurant was left looking like a normal Hardee’s. The researchers originally thought that the people in the fine-dining area would eat more because they would linger around longer and might be bored. However, they found the people in the fine-dining area actually ate less and enjoyed their food more. This means that if you want to eat less and get more enjoyment from your food, simply put on some slow, soft music while you eat.
Not only does music help with dieting, but it’s also incredibly helpful when it comes to exercising as well. A number of studies have been done on the connections between music and exercise. Some findings conclude that it helps people ignore fatigue and pain, improves mood, increases endurance, and it may also help with the metabolism’s efficiency. As for picking which music is the best for exercising, it’s important to keep it personal. For example, songs that evoke memories are useful. Also, if you can identify with the singer’s viewpoint or emotional state, it can be incredibly beneficial. It’s not about picking songs that are fast or up-tempo; it’s about picking songs that make you move.
5. It Helps With Stroke Victims
A study from the University of Helsinki looked at patients who had just suffered a stroke and were recovering. They randomly assigned patients what they would listen to for a few hours every day: music, audio books, or nothing at all. The researchers found that, compared to the patients that listened to the audio books or nothing, the people who listened to music had their verbal memory and focused attention recover better. Also, their demeanor was more positive and they were less confused.
Another interesting finding in the study is that when it came to verbal memory, 60 percent of the group that listened to music improved after three months, but the group that listened to audio books only saw about a 19 percent improvement. The doctors believe that words are not enough to help, but words with music can be incredibly beneficial in helping repair the brain.
4. It Aids in the Development of Children
Even at a young age, children can be helped by music. One study from York University in Toronto, Canada found that after just one month of music lessons, out of 24 participants who were between the ages of four and six, 90% showed improvement in verbal intelligence. Another study from Harvard University found that by training children in music, it also helps with the development of auditory discrimination, fine motor skills, vocabulary, and nonverbal reasoning.
In fact, music training has even been known to help children who don’t yet walk or talk. A study at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, found that one-year-old babies who participate in music classes with their parents smile more, communicate better, and show earlier and more sophisticated brain responses to music.
3. It Keeps Your Mind Sharp
For some people who took music lessons as a child, it may have seemed like a torturous ordeal and a waste of time. The good news is that if you were one of those people, or are someone who is currently forcing a child to learn to play an instrument, the training may have long-term positive effects on the human brain. A study from Northwestern University found that the more musical training someone had as a child the sharper his or her mind was as a senior adult. For the study, they took a group of 44 adults between the ages of 55 and 76, who had studied music between the ages of four and 14, but had quit and had not played in at least 40 years.
The researchers recorded the brain activity of the participants in the area of the brain where sound is processed and they found that the participants with more musical training responded faster to speech. Although it is important to point out that it was only about a millisecond faster and that may not sound like a lot, but the brain is a sharp tool and it is sensitive to timing. If one millisecond is compounded over millions of neurons, it can have drastic effects on the lives of seniors.
The researchers believe that the study will hopefully encourage more musical training for children and it will also justify parents sending their children out of the house for music lessons for a few hours every week.
2. It Reduces Pain
Researchers at the Pain Research Center at the University of Utah found that if people actively listen to music that they enjoy, they can reduce acute pain. This type of pain would be felt in situations like post-surgery or at the dentist.
In the study, they gave participants an electric shock and found that when listening to music, it decreased pain levels by 17 percent. It was twice as effective for people who have high anxiety. The reason music reduces pain is because a lot of the pathways in the brain that process music are the same ones that process pain. So when you listen to music you enjoy, it will create emotional responses that will compete with the pain, which means there are fewer resources for the body to compute the hurt.
1. It Improves Immune System
Researchers at McGill University in Montreal, Canada looked at 400 papers on music and neuroscience. One of the things they found was that music can help the body’s immune system. They found evidence that when people listen to music their body has an increase in immunoglobulin A, which is an antibody that plays an important part in the mucous system. Immunoglobulin A is also a natural killer cell count, which are cells that attack germs and bacteria that are invading.
Essentially, this means that just by listening to Taylor Swift you could be improving your immune system and keeping yourself healthy. Go ahead and use that as an excuse if you ever feel like shaking it off.