The world is full of stress-inducing chaos. Human rights disparities, climate change and natural disasters, a worldwide recession, war raging on, an ongoing pandemic, an ever-increasing polarized political climate… There are even UFOs being shot down across North America! We all need help in order to recenter and grasp onto mindfulness in the wake of all the utter turmoil we’re collectively experiencing right now. Music is a powerful asset to not only bring people together towards harmony, but also improve our quality of life. Dial it up to 11 with these eleven ways music affects mental health:
Music offers an escape from stress
A recent meta-analysis and review of various research studies found evidence that music can lower our heart rate and cortisol levels (aka the “fight or flight” hormones in our bodies). This reduces stress-related symptoms and diverts our energy and attention from the chaos to music that enlightens and inspires us.
Music helps you process your emotions
Whether it’s jamming to a breakup songs playlist or letting your mind wander through classical music or film/tv scores, music’s innate ability to move us on a deeper level really helps you feel your feelings. Research shows just how powerful music can be on our emotions, such as listening to sad music that evokes vicarious emotions.
Music amplifies communication
Words are hard. Expressing what you may be thinking or feeling rarely comes easily, but luckily music is around to help us better understand and share those things. Sharing lyrics or songs that resonate with you can help others understand you. Also, music has the potential to become an anthem for a group of people, offering a voice to the masses to be seen, heard, and valued.
Music boosts your sense of self and self-worth
Everybody can remember when they first discovered one of their favorite artists or songs, and the feelings of joy and excitement that came with it. Research suggests that these moments actually have a significant impact on adolescent development, and can create a window to observe psychological, social, and cultural needs of modern teens and young adults.
Music multiplies community
An artist needs a listener just as much as a listener needs the artist creating music. Singing, playing instruments, song writing, and sound mixing are just a few of the individual acts of creating music. We all create music and enjoy it together, and participating in it brings us closer to one another.
Music enhances your brain
Background music has been shown to improve performance of cognitive tasks in older adults as well as improve memory. Evidence also suggests that music can modify the brain, especially the domain relating to language learning and processing. If you’re trying to boost your mental performance, consider turning on some instrumental tracks while you work.
Music lifts your mood
Listening to music has been proven to release dopamine in the body, bringing feelings of pleasure, satisfaction, and motivation. Studies have even shown that listening to categorically positive or uplifting music is an effective way to boost happiness, both with and without the intention to become happier.
Music increases sleep quality
Many people utilize white noise to help them fall asleep, and listening to music before bedtime can significantly improve the quality of sleep. Classical music that is relaxing was shown to be an effective intervention in reducing sleeping problems, offering a cheap and fairly easy means to treat insomnia. If you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep, try playing some Beethoven!
Music improves workout performance
Listening to music while working out causes just enough of a distraction that your perceived effort and exertion are lowered. Thus, you’re able to work harder without feeling like it. Music tempo and rhythm have both been shown to positively impact physical performance and endurance. So not only are you feeling more motivated to work harder, but music also helps you perform better.
Music reduces symptoms of depression
Various types of music provide different responses by the brain and body. Listening to music is proven to be a great nonpharmacological intervention that decreases depressive symptoms while also improving functioning of people experiencing depression. Music is increasingly being used as a form of therapy because of its numerous benefits relating to neurological and psychiatric disorders.
Music balances the immune system
If you listen to music, you may be more likely to have an enhanced immune system. Because of music’s ability to lower stress and boost mood, the body is able to produce more immune responses. The chemicals and cells in your body respond very positively to you listening to music due to its psychoneuroimmunological effects.
However you listen to music, remember that it has amazing benefits for your mental and physical health. Find your favorite artists and composers and have fun listening to them! Moderation and context still matter, though. Like with everything we allow ourselves to consume, mindful media habits are key to long-term well-being. Celebrate music and invite others to be a part of it with you. Together we are better!