“Music has real health benefits. It boosts dopamine, lowers cortisol, and it makes us feel great. Your brain is better on music.” Alex Doman
country * classical * baroque * romantic * jazz * blues * rock * electroacoustic * heavy metal * hip hop * reggae * pop * urban * easy listening * soul * punk * chamber * new wave * ethnic fusion * ska * Motown * dance * disco * barbershop * rockabilly * folk * techno * salsa * rap * instrumental * grunge * emo * gospel * alternative * indie * R&B * ambient * funk * beat * progressive * garage * K-pop * chimurenga * trance * opera * mambo * calypso * mariachi * swing * bluegrass * lounge * mountain * psychedelic * electronic * organ * piano * enka * industrial * thrash * orchestral * hard core * Bossa nova * shoe gaze * latin * choral * drill * lullaby * percussion * nursery rhymes * …
Medical practitioners say that music provides a range of benefits for the human mind, body, and spirit.
Playing a musical instrument can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Parts of the brain that controls emotions is strengthened, causing beta-waves in the brain (that control concentration and decision-making) to shift towards alpha-waves (that control relaxation). The shift to alpha-waves causes the body to release endorphins which are natural painkillers, and to release serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin which are all chemical associated with feelings of happiness, says the tunexp website.
Students who learned to play a musical instrument were shown to be more creative than those who didn’t. Scientists think this is due to the experimental and expressive nature of playing an instrument – students can play notes that represent happiness or sadness or shopping or playing with the dog. It’s like acting, but in musical form. Practicing a musical instrument and composing music both lead to increased creativity and problem-solving.
Listening to music engages your brain’s reward system, releasing a feel good neurotransmitter called dopamine – the same chemical that is released when we taste delicious food, see something beautiful, or fall in love, says entrepreneur Alex Doman in his 2012 book with Don Campbell, Healing at the Speed of Sound: How What We Hear Transforms Our Brains and Our Lives.
Not only is listening to music, playing music, and composing music beneficial, so is singing – any singing – in tune and out of tune. Healthline says that a 2017 study, by researchers at the Royal College of Music in London, published in Frontiers in Psychology, found singing to be a stress-reliever. Scientists tested the saliva of singers before and after they sang to measure cortisol levels (the stress hormone). They found that cortisol reduced after singing – but only if the participants were not anxious about singing!
There is evidence from a 2014 clinical trial published in the Journal of Behaviour Medicine by researchers in the Department of Music at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany, that singing can help fight off illnesses. Immunoglobulin A, an antibody in the body, is secreted when people sing. Listening to music reduces stress hormones, as mentioned above, but it doesn’t stimulate the body’s immune system. So, singing while listening to music does both – it reduces stress and helps the body heal.
Singing changes the way you breathe, even after you have stopped singing. A study in 2009 found that better breathing led to less snoring at night. The study published in the American Journal of Respiratory Clinical Care Medicine by researchers at the Sleep Laboratory, Pulmonary Division, Heart Institute of the University of São Paulo Medical School in Brazil interviewed the spouses of choir singers and non-choir singers. Choir members rarely snored! They said singing improved airways and breathing, and also lung function.
Levels of the hormone oxytocin (in the bloodstream) are raised when people are singing together. Oxytocin is associated with empathy, trust, and relationship building. Our sensitivity to pain and stress hormone cortisol decrease when we are involved in group music making activity, says neuroscientist Alan R. Harvey in his 2017 book Music, Evolution, and the Harmony of Souls.
Singing, drumming, and dancing in a group triggers the release of hormones that increases pain tolerance, says a 2012 study published in Evolutionary Psychology by the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford and the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Liverpool and Bingham University in the United Kingdom. Just listening to music doesn’t do this. It is the combination of singing, playing an instrument, and moving that increases positivity and the pain threshold – it helps reduce pain.
Singing together and playing music together, and even listening to music together, also develop a sense of belonging, camaraderie, and bonding. A 2014 study of 11,258 school children found that children engaging together in a music program developed a strong sense of community and social inclusion. The results of the study were published in Frontiers in Psychology by researchers at the Department of Culture, Communication, and Media, International Music Education Research Centre, Institute of Education at the University of London, and the Department of Social Sciences at the University of Nicosia in Cyprus.
Healthline reports the following benefits of music:
- increased stress relief
- increased ability to fight illness (singing)
- increased pain threshold and the ability to reduce levels of pain
- reduced snoring and increased sleep (singing and playing wind instruments)
- increased lung function (singing and playing wind instruments)
- increased social connectedness
- increased memory for people with dementia
- reduced levels of grief
- increased mental health and mood
- improved speech and speaking (for people with neurological conditions).
Researchers in the Sandler Neuroscience Centre at the University of California in San Francisco studied music-related games. The team of scientists assigned non-musicians aged 60-79 years to play – for 8 weeks – either 1) a tablet-based musical rhythm game which demonstrates learning to hit a drum in time to music, or 2) a word-search game. The participants took a short-term memory test before and after the 8 weeks, and their brains were scanned. The results showed that only the rhythm training game participants showed an improved score (of around 4%). The brainwave data showed increased activity in the right superior parietal lobe, part of the brain associated with concentration and encoding visual information. The scientists say that the rhythm training improves the brain’s ability to focus attention on a task to prepare it to convert action into memory.
Anyone of any age can sing, listen to music, and bash out a beat. Healthline suggests the following for starters:
- Take a country drive – you, the road, and music (or sit in the driveway)
- Sing in the shower
- Sing with your children
- Attend a music festival or recital or watch a busker in the street (and give a tip!)
- Have a sing-along with your family, friends, school friends, community members
- Join a choir or singing circle
- Play percussion – bang a drum or Tamborine or shake a rattle
- Form a band or support a band
- Learn to sing or play a musical instrument
- Sing, play, dance.
Sing. Just sing. Play some instrument – even air guitar! Yes, even air guitar (that’s pretending you have a guitar, but you don’t, and you are playing your heart out anyway). Shake it, bang it, blow through it, tap on it, push the buttons, pluck that string …
Loud music can cause ear damage and cause disharmony with neighbours. Some lyrics of some songs can induce fear, anxiety, loneliness, nostalgia, depression, mood changes, and negative feelings – and influence negative actions and behaviour.
Music – in all its forms – does not necessarily address core issues.
“Music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life bringing peace, abolishing strife.” – Kahlil Gibran
“Music will help dissolve your perplexities and purify your character and sensibilities, and in time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“Words make you think. Music makes you feel. A song makes you feel a thought.” – Yip Harburg
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