The growing presence of computers, tablets, and smartphones in our daily lives has made music an essential way to optimize almost every repetitive or intellectually demanding activity.
Music has the power to make drudgery bearable, inspire incredible efforts, and spark creativity – and we have this amazing resource at our fingertips at all times. There’s solid research that proves that music has a significant (and measurable) effect on our bodies and minds.
Consider these three facts:
- Music can make you smarter
- Music is an effective way to treat chronic pain
- You can increase the odds that your school-age child will be an academic high-achiever by simply getting them to take music lessons
Proven Benefits of Music
Check out these 7 scientifically-backed ways that music can not only improve mental focus and mood – but that it will enhance your health, intelligence and emotional wellbeing like nothing else can.
1) Music will Enhance Focus
Most people reach for their headphones when start losing focus.
They likely also do it to escape the discomfort of a noisy (or even too quiet) environment — and especially to make a repetitive job more bearable.
Biologically, music encourages the release of dopamine in the reward area of your brain. Our minds have a natural tendency to wander; music has the power to bring us back to the present moment.
In one study, it was found that test subjects who listened to the music they enjoyed most finished their tasks quicker and thought up better ideas than those who didn’t, the theory is that it’s because the music improved their mood and inspired them to pursue novel approaches to routine problems.
2) Enhanced Positivity
Research suggests that music can stimulate all kinds of emotions through specific parts of the brain.
Consider how you perk up or suddenly are lost in memory when you hear a particular song. You’re experiencing a change in mood from the music. We sometimes see the origin of this in a parent and child connecting through a lullaby – it can be one of the most significant bonding experiences people will ever experience.
Years ago, my sons used to enjoy hearing my (admittedly clumsy) rendition of “Beyond the Sea” by Bobby Darin before going to bed; hearing it again always lifts my mood with happy memories.
If you’re in need of an emotional boost, it only takes 15 minutes of listening to your favorite music to enjoy a natural high. Music you love makes your body release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that creates a feeling of excitement and joy.
Another study found that listening to music will positively influence your mood while you’re behind the wheel, likely leading to better self-control and safer behavior on the road.
3) Music can help you be Healthier
The music we listen to affects our hormones.
Listening to enjoyable music decreases cortisol (a stress hormone) levels in your body, relieving chronic stress. Over 50% of all illness and disease can originate from chronically high stress levels; so lowering stress levels means you have better odds of staying healthy.
One study showed that a group playing percussion instruments and singing had a stronger immune response compared to people who were listening passively; although the health of both groups was affected positively; the group playing instruments and singing still had better results.
Music will even help you lose weight!
According to research, a combination of soft lighting and ambient music leads people to both enjoy what they’re eating more and (ironically) eat less.
If you enjoy exercising – then you’ll be happy to know that listening to music during your training sessions will make you perform better. Scientists discovered that runners who listened to motivational music ran better times than those who ran either without music or while listening to calm music during an 800-meter run. The key to enhancing performance was in the choice of music. So find something that inspires you for a turbocharged workout!
4) Be More Creative
This is something we all know intuitively; listening to certain kinds of music can inspire us to consider new ideas or figure out better ways to solve a problem. Now we have scientific evidence that it’s true.
Simone Ritter from Radboud University, The Netherlands and Sam Ferguson from the University of Technology Sydney, have concluded that listening to certain types of ‘happy’ classical music facilitates more innovative creative thinking than working in silence.
They theorize that certain variables involved in the classical music selected for study enhanced thought flexibility so that a greater range of solutions might be considered that may not have occurred to study participants as readily as when they performed a similar task in silence.
5) Become Smarter
90% of children between 4 and 6 years had demonstrated increased verbal intelligence after one month of music lessons. The children learned about melody, pitch, rhythm, and voice.
The results of this study suggest that music education had a synergistic effect that improved children’s ability to both understand and explain the meaning of the words they encounter.
Another study came to similar conclusions. Musically trained children (and grown women) performed better at verbal memory tests than a group with no music training at all.
These researchers surveyed a group of 6-year-old children who were given either keyboard or vocal lessons for 36 weeks. The result was that these children had measurably greater increases in IQ and standardized test results than children who took part in non-musical activities over the same period. Further evidence suggests that children who get music lessons are predisposed to higher academic performance and better than average grades.
6) Music for Pain Management
A rapidly growing body of research provides evidence that music can effectively alleviate physical pain.
Numerous studies have demonstrated the pain-relieving effect music can have on people. Long-term research shows that music therapy in pain management is associated with reduced reliance on pain relieving drugs and an improved quality of life.
But, how does music accomplish this?
Both stress and anxiety are known to intensify the experience of pain; music can relieve stress and anxiety minimizing the perception pain. Also, music reduces levels of stress hormone in the body – helping you to relax and lessen the effect that pain has on your system.
7) Watching Live Music is Good Medicine
The results of a study which compared the effects of live vs. recorded music conducted at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, showed that live music was better at promoting vigor, relieving stress and easing tension in cancer patients than when they listened to recordings instead.
Similar research found that live music had a greater positive effect for sufferers of Parkinson’s disease – when Parkinson’s patients listened to music which contained a steady rhythm or beat, they experienced significant improvements in their walking.
Maybe it’s the higher level of authenticity and energy that is inherent with live music – the interplay between audience and performer can’t be replicated by even the most amazing sound system.
We all thrive on social interaction and love the joy of belonging.
Hanging out with people who feel a deep connection with the music you love, sharing all that positive energy while listening together can be an intensely spiritual event.
Here are two easy ways to enjoy the benefits of music in your life right now:
Learn to play an instrument
You’ve always wanted to learn how to play the guitar or piano, but never had the opportunity, time, or inclination – how about something smaller and simpler that you can learn how to play on your own?
The harmonica is a shockingly easy and inexpensive instrument to learn, and you don’t need to learn how to read music to play impressively. You could even dust off that recorder from your college music class to start reaping the benefits of music for your physical, mental, and emotional health.
Sing a song
Remember that it’s about the act of singing, not singing well!
Some studies have demonstrated that singing (even bad singing!) provides emotional, social, and cognitive benefits that can reduce stress, give you a positive outlook, and improve your quality of life.
Go to a concert
The physical and emotional benefits of live music are real. Reap the extraordinary benefits of sharing music with people who feel the impact just like you do. Take every opportunity you can to swim in the energy of a concert.