Are you musically inclined? Especially as we age, it’s common to put aside our hobbies and interests in fear of the constant to-do list the rat race has left us with. However, indulging in relaxing hobbies you enjoy can be one of the smartest, healthiest self-development tools you have. Not only are you more productive and creative when you have an outlet for your passion, but you’ll find you’re a better balanced, happier person.
The Benefits of Music
Music is not only a vehicle for emotional expression, it has many benefits for mental and physical health. This is, after all, why musical therapy is used in settings like hospice/palliative care facilities, recovery facilities, addiction treatment, and more. It’s even been linked to improved mood, reduction in anxiety, and decreased pain. Here’s a closer look at some key benefits we see linked to a musical hobby.
Stress Reduction and Mood Elevation:
Soothing rhythms have been linked to increased dopamine production in the brain. Dopamine, in turn, helps relieve depression and anxiety. Did you know that the amygdala, one of the oldest parts of the brain, is linked to how we ‘receive’ and process sounds and musical patterns? This key area of the brain is also linked to our moods and emotions. Interestingly, it doesn’t really matter what we listen to- it could be metal and rap, or classical- so long as we enjoy and engage with it.
Likewise, a better mood leads to reduced stress. Rhythm and musical input are also directly linked to triggering some biochemical stress reducers in the brain. As with exercise, this positive hormonal release can help ‘pick you up’, reduce mild depression, and put you in a more positive frame of mind.
We bet this one surprises you! Enjoyable musical listening helps us slip into a relaxed state. In turn, we see a reduction in resting heart rate, which leads to knock-on positives for blood pressure reduction, decreased cortisol (the ‘stress hormone’) and that endorphin rush we mentioned earlier. Of course, if you move around while listening, even simply tapping along to the beat, you’re also increasing blood flow.
Memory and Pain Reduction
One of the reasons that musical therapy is used in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease programs is its strong correlation to memory. While these brain-degradation issues cannot be ‘cured’, per se, the ability to unlock memories and take us back to important times in our lives can significantly increase our quality of life. Who hasn’t had a memory triggered by a specific song? Whether it’s the song you danced to at your wedding, or what was playing on the radio when you had your first heartbreak, the link between rhythms and the mind is strong.
Music therapy for degenerative and cognitive issues helps improve mood, relax agitated patients, and even help with pain.
The last point is a surprising one, right? Remember that we mentioned that the right tune can reduce the stress hormone, cortisol? As well as boost endorphins in the body? This release of ‘positive’ biochemical reactions in the body has a knock-on effect in creating competing signals to the brain, helping to reduce chronic pain. It even has a knock-on effect in reducing how instantly we perceive pain, too. Perhaps all those sad songs we cried our hearts out to in our teens weren’t just silly after all!
Interestingly, if you can actually play a musical instrument, instead of simply enjoying what skilled musicians have given us, you’re also engaging neurons in your brain, a task that can help ward off degenerative diseases.
Boost Endurance and Curb Appetite
This is another surprising benefit to music, but the science speaks for itself. The reason that high-end restaurants have dim lighting and soft background tunes is that it helps people slow down while eating. Instead of stuffing our faces and running off to the next task, we relax, enjoy, and socialize. In turn, we eat less and see more value in the food we consume, kind of a ‘mindfulness light’ exercise.
Likewise, we all know in our soul that cranking a banging playlist at the gym has benefits on our workout. Having a playlist compiled to give you the right number of beats per minute can drastically improve our engagement with the activity at hand. Plus, it pumps us up and makes us feel good. In turn, we work out better, harder, and longer, and can power through tougher exercises. It can also help buoy our spirits through dull tasks like housework and repetitive tasks.
Rediscovering your Love of Music
So these are just some of the ways in which music can improve our health and wellbeing. So if you’ve ever felt ‘too busy’ to build some me-time into your day to let down your hair and enjoy yourself, it’s time to think again.
It might be time for you to dust off your old instrument and get strumming again. If you’re musically inclined, or just up for the challenge, actually playing an instrument can be a deeply enriching way to express yourself and enrich your life. You can even connect with like-minded musicians on platforms like Vampr, a social site geared specifically to those who create and enjoy songs.
But you don’t have to play an instrument to experience many of the same benefits we’ve listed. Obviously, it’s great to fire yourself up with a fantastic playlist when you step into the gym or head out for a run, or even while doing chores, but what else can you do to get yourself some valuable ‘musical therapy’.
Many people have had great results with using music, instead of a shrill alarm tone, to help them wake up in the morning. Or you can incorporate some soft, but invigorating, rhythm into your morning routine to help pep yourself up and prepare for the day.
Your commute is another great area to enrich with tunes you enjoy. This also helps you wind down after the workday and prepare your brain to relax at home. If you can’t actively listen to music during your workday, you can also build ‘music breaks’ into your routine, to clear your head, help you reset, and put you back into a creative working mode.
Music has a lot of power to help soothe, relax, and improve your day, so it’s time to start compiling a great playlist right now!