The Power of Music: 7 Ways it Benefits the Human Body
Virtually everyone can relate to jamming out to their favorite song and feeling a deep sense of joy, but what do researchers say about how it affects the human brain and body?
1. Human Connection
It's something we've seen time and time again: music has the potential to unite people. Whether at a baseball game listening to the Star Spangled Banner or jamming out in the front row listening to a rock band, music promotes feeling of connection to those around us. In fact, researchers believe that one of the most important functions of music is to create a feeling of cohesion or social connectedness.
2. Mental Health
Considering how deeply many people connect to pieces of music, it likely comes at no surprise that music has been proven to improve our mood. A study conducted by researchers from McGill University in Canada in 2011 found that listening to music increases the amount of dopamine produced in the brain – a mood-enhancing chemical. This finding poses the question: could music have a role in treating depression?
3. Reducing Pain and Anxiety
Often times, people listen to certain types of music to help them relax or meditate, but does it have a role in reducing anxiety and even pain? Researchers from Brunel University surveyed more than 7,000 patients that recently had surgery and found that those who were played music after their procedure reported feeling less pain and anxiety than those who did not listen to music, they were also less likely to need pain medication. This effect was even stronger for patients who had the freedom to choose the music they listened to.
4. Heart Health and Exercise
Beyond its many benefits to mental health, music has also been tied to improving one's physical health. Scientists have correlated it to improved heart health, as it promotes exercise, can help lower blood pressure, and lower one's heart rate. Not only does it promote workouts, listening to music has been proved to even extend workouts and increase motivation.
5. Stress Relief
A study conducted in 2013 found that not only did listening to music help reduce pain and anxiety for children at the Great Ormond Street Hospital, it helped reduce stress even independent of social factors. Researchers believe that music may help alleviate stress by lowering the body’s cortisol levels – the hormone released in response to stress. However, it's important to note that musical tempo had a major impact, citing that slower tempos helped to reduce stress while faster tempos in some cases actually increased stress.
6. Improved Learning
Listening to music has been proven to stimulate and engage the brain. In a 2019 study, people were more motivated to learn when they expected to listen to a song as their reward. However, it should be noted that listening to a song with lyrics while studying has also shown to have a negative impact on a student's learning.
Lastly, music also has been correlated with enhancing your memory. In one study, researchers gave people simple tasks that required them to read and then recall short lists of words. Those who were listening to classical music outperformed those who worked in silence or with white noise. The same study tracked how fast people could perform simple processing tasks and found that listening to Mozart helped people complete the task faster and more accurately. While music doesn’t reverse the memory loss experienced by people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, music has also been found to slow cognitive decline, helping people with mild or moderate dementia remember episodes from their lives.
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