Can Listening to or Playing Music Benefit Your Health?

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Nobody really knows the origins of music and humans first started to play instruments, although the earliest known musical instrument was found in southern Germany and is believed to have belonged to Neanderthals. The small collection of flutes dating back between 42000 to 43000 years old were made from mammoth tusks.

Many in the scientific community believe they were used for religious purposes, or simply as a way of relaxing during the cold and bleak winters of the time. The fact that they were found in a cave could suggest the latter, but most people agree music was born before that time period and these are simply the best preserved.

Once early mankind started to play basic instruments it is believed that music was used for many different occasions. Religious ceremonies, drums being played before war, and nighttime entertainment whilst relaxing after a hard day hunting are the most likely reasons for playing music.

Nowadays we are surrounded by music, everywhere we go from the mall, commuting to work, the gym, bars, and nightclubs, or just relaxing at home, you cannot go one day without hearing music. But for many people music is more than just entertainment, it helps them cope with their lives, bringing joy regardless of the genre.

Health Benefits of Music

Everybody has different musical tastes, whether it is relaxing to classical music and a glass of wine or listening to johnny cash chords in the car, music can be good for our wellbeing. Here are some of the health benefits of listening to music.

1Music Can Help Improve Your Memory

Listening to music has the ability to help people recall memories, and is used in therapy sessions by doctors with dementia. A recent study by Mayo Clinic concluded that music therapy slowed cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease patients, and helped them to remember past events in their lives. Whilst not claiming to reverse dementia, it does give hope and further studies are ongoing.

In another test study not related to Alzheimer’s or dementia research, subjects were given a list of random words and asked to memorize them. The results showed that the subjects who were listening to classical music performed better than subjects who had no music, or white noise in the background. In the same study, the subjects were given numbers to match with geometrical shapes, and once again the people listening to classical music outperformed those who participated in complete silence. Music memory is one of the most resistant to dementia and that is why caregivers often use music to build trust and calm patients.

2Music Can Have a Powerful Effect on Your Mood

Researchers have surveyed different races, genders, and a wide variety of ages, and asked why do they listen to music? Almost all the answers were the same, it helps to regulate emotions, and music has the power to change moods. For example, if you go to a party or gathering and the music is slow tempo and low volume, people are more inclined to be reserved. If the music volume is turned up and changed to a vibrant beat, people will start to dance and socialize more. Other more serious effects music can have on the brain include:

  • Lowering anxiety, music can help reduce anxiety and help you remain calm in stressful situations. Studies also show that music blended with natural sounds also helps people who have serious or critical medical conditions, helping to reduce their anxiety after music therapy sessions.
  • Helping people suffering from depression, in 2017 a study found that listening to classical music or jazz music and even a combination of both, had positive results during therapy sessions. Similarly, percussion sessions involving drum circles help people suffering from depression.

With studies ongoing, the early research looks promising. Doctors and therapists are keen to find alternatives to pharmaceutical medicines to treat illness, it seems music may be the key.

3Music is Not Just For The Mind it Can Help Physical Health

Music is well known to make you want to move, whether it is simply tapping your foot or ripping up the dance floor, and this makes music good for the health of your heart. Helping to alter your heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure, depending on the style of music you listen to. Research conducted at Shanghai University found that listening to music also helps reduce fatigue and boost endurance for people engaged in repetitive tasks.

Anybody who regularly goes to the gym or exercises knows that music has a positive effect on the mind and body. Research has confirmed this beyond doubt, but anybody who puts on music to a workout can already tell you that it has positive effects on their stamina and produces longer workouts. Athletes before a big competition often listen to their favorite music moments before a race or events, only stopping listening just before the start to help them in their pre-event preparations.

4Playing an Instrument Has so Many Health Benefits

A musical instrument can be challenging to learn but has proven health benefits, learning an instrument can improve your cognitive and emotional health, also helping to improve mental health. If you haven’t already tried to play an instrument whether it is the piano, guitar, or violin, now could be a good time to start to learn. In fact, many of us during these troubling times suffering from the Covid-19 pandemic have more free time with stay at home orders. Here are some of the proven benefits of learning a new musical instrument:

  • Deep breathing, most of the time we are shallow breathing, but by playing a wind instrument you need to breathe much deeper, which is beneficial to our respiratory system and lungs.
  • Improves hearing, learning to play music helps you refine your hearing, listening to the notes often amongst other noises, and being able to isolate them is often something only a trained musician can do.
  • Correcting posture, all good music teachers will not only train you in playing your chosen instrument but will constantly correct your posture. This helps you outside of the learning environment, even when sitting at home or at work you will adopt a correct seating position. Correcting your alignment will help you avoid neck and back problems in later life.

These are just a small example of positive health benefits that are derived from learning to play an instrument. There are much more mental and physical pros to be gained.

Summary

Whether it is learning to play music for its social interaction benefits or learning to overcome emotional problems in your life, the power of music can help you. Victims of trauma often swear by the soothing qualities of playing an instrument, and people with short tempers find that listening or learning music helps them to calm down and relax.

Whatever your motivation, health, or simple curiosity it is worth giving the music a chance. It doesn’t need to be expensive to start learning, buy a cheap guitar or ask a friend if they can lend you theirs. If you find it hard on your own there are always young people, often students, who will give you lessons for cheap to help pay for their own education. For most people, it doesn’t come naturally but don’t be put off, with practice and determination anybody can learn to appreciate the benefits of music.

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