Music Matters. You might want to listen!

There must be a reason why parents have been singing lullabies to babies for hundreds of years. For some, this is the first experience of the amazing ability of music to alter mood. As we grow, we experience this differently and start to link moments in our lives with certain songs or pieces of music. We also use music as a way to express moods by experimenting with various genres of music. Some genres come and go as quickly as the latest fashion trend. Others resonate with us for longer periods of time and become part of our personal soundtracks. Put simply, we accumulate musical experiences as we grow.

Scientific studies have shown that we all have the ability to interpret and react emotionally to a piece of music. We don’t even have a choice in doing so. It just happens! There are so many ways in which people use music to adjust or enhance their mood.

Music creates different emotional responses in all of us. Therefore, a happy song for someone may have the adverse effect on another. However, it is notable to disclose that as a rule fast tempo and a happy melody usually speed up breathing, which incidentally has been linked to a state of happiness. Adversely, a slower tempo, or sad minor key have been shown to slow down the breathing, which can be a sign of unhappiness. But we are all unique individuals and any music can bring about happiness indirectly through a cathartic release, much like screaming at the top of a mountain or more conveniently into your pillow.

This incredible display of individual interpretation could be due to the fact that the effects of music are completely intangible. Unlike language, where there is a certain formula for deciphering meaning, music is open-ended and everyone will decipher meaning from it differently. As we gather our personal music experiences, our brains log them and we use this information to predict what will happen next during a song! We become music psychics!

If we can learn how we react to music, we could harness its power to treat a multitude of people and illnesses. For example, for people suffering from depression, music therapy has been shown to lower levels of stress, anxiety and feelings of loneliness. In fact, it can become an activity that brings people together! This is especially true in the case of live music, where people are brought together over a mutual interest, allowing for an easier way to make new friends. Also, social interaction while playing music as part of a group brings people together over a common goal which can provide a sense of achievement, feelings of self-worth and creativity.

We talk about music over social media and have opportunities to share our favorite band or meet people with similar interests. Playing music by yourself can also be a personal form of release and expression; allowing for a safe place to express emotions. This can lead to a better understanding of oneself. Not only that, but these psychological benefits you feel can further lead to physical benefits.  A recent study listed the following physical benefits of music:

Ease pain.
Music can help you to relax and connect to feelings other than the perceived pain you are experiencing.

Motivate people to exercise with greater intensity.
Music can actually make you run faster! Your body automatically will adjust to different tempos in music and both consciously and subconsciously take on messages from lyrics and moods of music. Listening to music can also take your mind off the physical task and result in increased endurance.

Improve sleep quality.
Studies have shown that music can ease the nuisance of insomnia with the specific genre of classical music having the greatest effect.

Help people eat less.
Restaurants have been capitalizing on research concerning music genres and pace of eating for years to help customers get in and out of the doors as quickly as possible. Often fast food restaurants will play upbeat fast pop music, which has been shown to speed up eating. So, dim your lights and put on some relaxing slow music to slow down and savor each bite.

Enhance blood vessel function.
Even scientists concur with the benefits of listening to music. Your blood vessel function actually increases while listening to music. Let that stress leave your body!

Sometimes it may seem impossible to avoid music, as it plays almost unknowingly in busy coffee shops, behind TV advertisements, in elevators, in our offices, in our cars. We may not even be aware of what we are taking in.  Practice mindfulness in noticing our surroundings, and the effects of the music that surrounds us.  Developing an awareness of when music is playing and actively creating periods of silence and absence of music may be more healing. Just remember to treat yourself to your favorite song now and then as it could just make you happier.

 

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