How Does Music Boost Your Health Immediately?
The other night I was sitting on my deck listening to Linda Ronstadt sing Lose Again. This song brought me to tears, and I’m not what you’d call a crier. So, I’m sitting alone, tears rolling down my face because of a song.
Music has the ability to bring us to tears or lift us up to the clouds. It is amazingly powerful, much more powerful than most of us appreciate.
If I’m a little down, yes even the author of Get Glad gets down occasionally, I’ll put some music on to bring me around. Could be blues, could be classical, could be some hard-charging rock. Doesn’t much matter. Catharsis begins almost immediately. It did for me once Ronstadt belted out Lose Again.
Other folks I know have specific genres, even specific songs that they prescribe. Here’s a list of songs you might want to turn on next time you are melancholy.
We all have probably experienced the healing nature of music.
Music boosts creativity, as you know if you are a regular at my blog, You, Improved. I use it for this purpose often. Typically, I’ll play classical music for a creative spark. But if I’m struggling with writing, I’ll grab my guitar and pound out a few chords. Listening to music has numerous benefits beyond lifting your mood and boosting creativity. It can be therapeutic.
- Boosts immune function
- Increases exercise stamina
- Improves spatial reasoning
- Aids with guided meditations
- Improves learning and test taking
- Improves recovery for stroke victims
- Reduces chronic pain and pain after surgery
A story in Retirement Millionaire discussed music’s therapeutic values recently,
A few years ago, research presented at the European Society of Cardiology’s meeting in Amsterdam found listening to music bolsters the recovery of people with heart disease. People who listened to music for 30 minutes per day, in addition to exercising, improved their heart function more than people who just exercised. The researchers said the type of music wasn’t important. They believe listening to music releases endorphins (mood-lifting and healing chemicals), helping to improve heart function. And it’s not just endorphins giving us a boost… Music also stimulates the reward centers of our brains.
Those reward centers produce dopamine, a feel-good hormone I wrote extensively about in my book, Get Glad. The article in Retirement Millionaire also discussed this aspect of music,
But dopamine is also a key neurotransmitter for something called neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is basically how well your brain can change and adapt to stimuli. That means you can better adapt to aging. And music acts as a key stimulator for these dopamine networks. What that means is that music helps stimulate areas in the brain responsible for the reward system. You listen to music, you feel happy. That’s because those parts of your brain are getting lots of dopamine. In 2001, Harvard scientists did imaging studies in which they saw certain areas of the brain release dopamine when patients listened to their favorite music.
Music therapy is being used much more often for many maladies, both physical and emotional. Music therapist Kimberly Sena Moore writes about this for the BrainHQ blog,
Simply put, we use music to make your life better. Whether you need help socially, cognitively, physically, emotionally, or developmentally, music can help you get better. Music is a core function in our brain. Our brain is primed early on to respond to and process music. Research has shown that day-old infants are able to detect differences in rhythmic patterns. Mothers across cultures and throughout time have used lullabies and rhythmic rocking to calm crying babies. From an evolutionary standpoint, music precedes language. We don’t yet know why, but our brains are wired to respond to music, even though it’s not “essential” for our survival.
Our bodies entrain to rhythm. Have you ever walked down the street, humming a song in your head, and noticed that you’re walking to the beat? That’s called entrainment. Our motor systems naturally entrain, or match, to a rhythmic beat. When a musical input enters our central nervous system via the auditory nerve, most of the input goes to the brain for processing. But some of it heads straight to motor nerves in our spinal cord. This allows our muscles to move to the rhythm without our having to think about it or “try.” It’s how we dance to music, tap our foot to a rhythm, and walk in time to a beat. This is also why music therapists can help a person who’s had a stroke re-learn how to walk and develop strength and endurance in their upper bodies.
I have also found that music enhances my running and workout performance.
How has music affected you?