Benefits of Music
Music is everywhere. You are at the store and a Jonas Brothers song comes on. You are in the elevator and Muzak, the ambient, instrumental music, starts playing to fill the awkward silence. You are in a classroom and your teacher pulls up Kahoot leading to that upbeat tune to start blaring while everyone joins. Maybe you study with music or listen to music in the shower. Maybe you crank it up in the car or blast it in your room. Our society is engulfed by music. Since we surround ourselves with music, why not look at the benefits it reaps?
Music stimulates the brain. Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine performed a study where they had a musician lying down in a fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging machine) while playing/singing/rapping to music. While doing so, different areas of the brain light up establishing that there is a connection between your brain and music. An intriguing connection that music has with the brain is with memory. How are we able to recall the lyrics and melodies of a song we haven’t heard in years? How are we able to recall the lyrics and melodies of a multitude of songs? Our brains possess a remarkable ability to make, store, and retrieve memories of music. However, what is truly phenomenal is our tendency to correlate memories with music. Our emotions are often stimulated while listening to music. With the combination of an auditory and emotional setting, our brains can infuse a song with a memory. Therefore, anytime we hear a specific song it triggers a memory and all the emotions associated with it. What’s even more fascinating is the fact that people tend to remember songs more than their own memories. Dr. Oliver Sacks discovered the musical memory area (MMA) in our brains. MMA is a separate area from the hippocampus (area of the brain responsible for memory storage) solely focused on our memories of music. This new discovery explains why patients with Alzheimer’s and/or dementia still have a lasting memory of music. For example, Carol Howard’s onset of Alzheimer’s worsened to the point where she often couldn’t remember her husband. However, she could sing every word in the 1960s Simon & Garfunkel song with ease.
Music can enhance your studying. Dr. Roediger stated that music provides rhythm, rhyme, and often alliteration. It is a structure that is key to unlocking information stored in the brain. Music promotes a more positive mindset. With a positive mindset, the outcomes of learning become improved meaning you are more likely to have success with studying and learning new material. However, playing the wrong type of music has the ability to distract you. Research suggests listening to instrumental or classical music while studying since it removes the urge to sing along to lyrics. Classical music, in particular, has the ability to enhance focus as it can help your brain absorb and interpret new information more easily. With that being the case, try to expand your musical taste with classical music. Put on some classical music while studying and potentially the material might click faster.
Music helps boost your mental health. Research has shown that music can improve anxiety and stress, lower blood pressure, reduce pain, increase serotonin and endorphin in blood levels, and even help neurological diseases. Through this discovery came music therapy. Music therapy is an evidence-based treatment that aims to reduce stress, and improve mood and self-expression. It utilizes the benefits of creating music, singing, listening to music, moving to the beat, discussing lyrics, and playing an instrument to help treat a variety of disorders including cardiac conditions, depression, autism, trauma, substance abuse and Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, with the high rate of success, you should try doing music therapy on your own time. If there is a time when you are feeling overwhelmed, take a step back, find a comfortable setting, pop in an earbud, and listen to a few of your favorite songs.
Music helps advance your physical health. What do a runner, biker, and a weightlifter have in common? Well, aside from doing physical exercise they are most likely listening to music. If you’ve ever gone to the gym before you’ll notice that most, if not everyone, are wearing earbuds or headphones. Listening to music while working out/exercising is actually very beneficial. Research has shown that music can actually make people run faster, bike longer, and swim faster without them realizing it. How is this possible, you may ask? Music has the ability to distract people from pain and fatigue, increase endurance, reduce perceived effort, and even promote metabolic efficiency. Music is correlated with our emotions. People tend to choose a song based on how they are feeling or how they want to feel. In the case of working out, people want to feel motivated. The lyrics, the melody, the beat and rhythm, and even the way the singer sings the song have an impact on you. As music causes people to be submerged in strong emotions, their endurance increases. There commonly is an instinct to synchronize movement with music. Consequently, researchers recommend listening to fast songs with strong beats while working out which may explain why “Lose Yourself” by Eminem is such a popular workout song.
It’s amazing what music can do. So use it for your benefit. Just please don’t crank it so loud that your eardrum pops.