Most people have at least one favorite song, their go-to when they need a mood boost or a particular piece that every time they hear it brings back a fond memory. Listening to music is not just entertaining. It can literally be life-changing. Music has the ability to improve brain function, mood, reduce stress, improve sleep, and help with pain management.
Music Can Improve Cognitive Performance and Memory
MRI scans of the brain reveal that multiple parts of the brain become active when people engage in listening to music. Increased brain activity has been shown in recent studies to improve processing speed allowing kids and adults alike to enhance cognitive task performance.
Listening to music activates the brain's areas associated with memory, reasoning, speech, emotion, and reward. Stimulating all of these areas simultaneously allows the brain to lay new memories more efficiently and provide quick retrieval later on.
Using Music to Improve Mood
Besides helping us learn, other research studies show that music can even help change your state of mind and help you find a "happy place." Evidence has shown that music can produce healthy brain functions and overall feelings of well-being by activating several neurochemical systems, including those that produce feelings of pleasure and reduced stress. Music can create brain function changes by affecting neurochemicals such as dopamine, cortisol, serotonin, and oxytocin.
The effect of music on the brain's chemical makeup has been found to be a beneficial therapy for people with a variety of disorders, including depression. One study found evidence to support using music therapy to reduce depression and anxiety in people suffering from a wide range of conditions.
Reducing Stress with Music
Many people use music to match their mood or to help shift them into a better mood. Using music in this way can have a meditative impact that soothes the mind and promotes relaxation. When we are stressed, our autonomic system responds with chemical signals sending our minds and bodies into an alert state. Because the autonomic system controls functions such as blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, and sweating, our entire body can feel anxious when stressed. Studies suggest listening to music can allow people to return to a calm state faster than with no music activity.
Music May Help You Sleep Better
When we sleep, our brain runs through critical processes that are responsible for thinking and learning. Losing sleep impairs attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning, and problem-solving, making it difficult to learn or grow in social-emotional intelligence. One study reviewed the sleep habits of college students. Participants who listened to music had better sleep quality (duration and satisfaction) than those who did not listen to music before going to sleep.
The cognitive effects of losing sleep can also have other ripple effects across your general well-being. Lack of sleep can affect your mood, memory, stress on relationships, and reduce your quality of life. So put on some tunes, relax, and let the music carry you off into a restful, full night of sleep.
Music Can Help Manage Pain
We all experience occasional aches and pains from injuries, but every day can be a battle for those who experience chronic pain. Many people resort to managing their pain through medications, and unfortunately, there is a large part of the population that become addicted to this form of pain management.
Common pain medications can be abused. They can be expensive and cause other health-related problems due to their side effects and drug interactions. Alternatively, music therapy has been studied as a means of managing pain. According to a study published by the National Library of Medicine, listening to music can alleviate symptoms caused by conditions such as fibromyalgia and inflammatory disease.
More than Entertainment
From battling anxiety, depression, and stress to pain management, music is not just for entertainment. Because of the chemical changes that occur in our brain, music can transform not only how we think but also how we feel physically and emotionally. It can serve as a bridge that connects the psychological with the physiological, opening up new pathways to explore better health.