Many people have had the experience of hearing a particular piece of music and being flooded with memories of another time in their life, or desperately needing the release of being so absorbed in music that nothing else exists. So it’s not really surprising that the latest research on how music affects us shows that it has many benefits:
It lifts our mood
Engaging with certain music, especially with the intention that it makes us feel better, actually does. It takes our mind off what’s bothering us and stimulates our body to release endorphins, the “feel good hormone”. It’s easy to imagine that upbeat music like salsa, reggae or Vivaldi would have this effect, but sometimes even sad music works too, partly because it helps us to process our own emotions in a safe way.
It reduces stress and pain
Listening to music helps us to relax, reducing muscle tension and blood pressure, decreasing anxiety and depression, and easing even chronic pain. Classical, Celtic or raga music work especially well here. Choose music like Bach to help slow your heartbeat and breathing, and take you to an almost meditative state, which is optimal for healing and for sleep, if you’re struggling with insomnia.
It helps us focus, improves memory and enhances our creativity
Whether we’re listening to it or playing it, music activates many different parts of our brain, in both the left and right hemispheres. This helps us to concentrate and process information better, and then retain what we’ve learned for easy recall later or come up with new ideas. Try listening to Mozart or other baroque music while you’re studying – it’s particularly effective due to the pattern of beats per minute.
It brings us together
Making music, even just using your own voice but especially if you sing or play an instrument with others, brings huge satisfaction, helps us feel connected to those around us and makes everyone seem more likeable. For a taste of this, you could join a choir or band, or just sing along with your buddies without worrying how you sound. You’ll be smiling before you know it!
Of course everyone’s taste in music differs, so experiment for yourself to find out what you like. Whether you’re studying, partying or trying to sleep, there’s bound to be something out there that works for you.