Research Shows the Health Benefits of Music
Personally, I don’t think I could survive without music. I’ve been playing piano since the ripe age of 6, and I’ve been playing guitar since the age of 12. And, even before I started playing music, my parents made sure that I was always listening to music.
Every time we went for a car ride, they would slide a different CD into the old minivan, and have a music lesson, educating me on such classic greats as Billy Joel, Elton John, Queen, Boston, and Eric Clapton, as well as some of the newer bands, like Matchbox Twenty and Greenday.
Between the music I listened to, as well as the music I played, which included classical, ragtime, and jazz, I found that I have never needed to see a therapist. I’ve had a long-standing joke that my therapist is my guitar.
If I’m sad or angry, frustrated, pissed-off, or feeling absolutely euphoric, music is the conduit in which I can make those emotions tangible, working them out of my system.
To this day, and probably for the rest of my life, I listen to music while I work, while I work out, while I read (classical or neo-classical acoustic guitar), while I cook, while I eat – anything I do is almost always supplemented by a little music.
And it turns out that science is with me on this. Music is medicinal.
A Little History
I feel like everyone has at least heard of Plato or Confucious. If you have not, Plato was an Athenian philosopher in Ancient Greece. He was born in 429 BC.
Confucious was a Chinese philosopher that is responsible for the creation of Confucianism, which is a religious school of thought that is ongoing today. He was born in 551 BC.
And there is also King Solomon, one of the famously wise kings of ancient Israel. (He’s even older than the other two philosophers I mentioned above).
One of the things these great men have in common is their collective belief in and praise of music as a way to ease stress and soothe the mind.
Music has been used for centuries in just about every military ever, in order to garner confidence, unison, and courage. Think of military drum lines that are used to call the time of the march. Or communication through horn-blasts.
Looking to more modern times, think about how much music is used in sporting events. College sports play music when they enter the field, when they’re warming up in the locker rooms, and when the opposing team is entering the field.
The marching band plays a specific tune every time their team scores, and different songs to hype up the crowd and the players.
Music is even used to ensure learning and retention – remember how you learned the alphabet …. We all sang the ABCs song.
Music is able to influence mood – it can hype you up or calm you down, excite you, or make you a little sad. Regardless of how and where it is used, it is definitely powerful.
Have you ever been listening to a song and then, without any conscious thought or control, begun to move in rhythm with the music?
I know this happens to me all the time.
I’ll be listening to music, and if a really powerful guitar solo starts, I’ll whip out that classic air guitar and shred along to the music that’s blasting in my ears, often, without realizing I’m even doing it.
I’ve also been driving when ‘my jam’ will come on, and that means I’m banging the steering wheel in time with the beat, singing along at the top of my lungs and maybe even bouncing my leg.
This whole process is called musical entrainment. It involves the creation of a connection that is simultaneously internal and external. Scientifically, this is an aspect of mirror neurons.
Basically, science supports the fact that music can influence health – research has found four areas of impact: reward, motivation and pleasure; immunity; social affiliation; and stress and arousal.
Overall Health Benefits
Music is also known to improve cognition. Specifically in people with Alzheimer’s, music has enabled some patients to recall lost memories.
Additionally, music greatly enhances memory. This is because the rhythmic, melodic nature of music helps our brains form certain patterns that help improve our capacity to remember things.
Also, in studies conducted on people recovering from surgery, music has been found to reduce pain levels and lessen anxiety.
Music is an integral part of human society and culture, and has been for millenia. And it is so integrated into our lives for a reason – it’s good for us. It is therapeutic, stress and anxiety relieving, pain-reducing, and memory-improving.
Most importantly though, music makes us feel good. It makes us workout better. It increases motivation. If you don’t already listen to music often, your mind and your body will thank you if you started incorporating music into your daily lives.
I’m a personal trainer based in Denver (Matrix Gym) and a true fitness nerd. If I’m not training clients or working out at my home gym, I’m probably skiing, cycling or hiking with my dog Rufus.