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Research Shows the Health Benefits of Music

By Jacob Devaney on Friday November 6th, 2015

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Scientists are now supporting the claim that Music is Medicine

There are many mindfulness practices to stimulate inner awareness, increase health, and elevate our mood. Now we can add to that list practices such as listening to Mozart with your full being while sipping tea, singing a pop-song out loud while you drive across town, or losing your body to ecstatic dancing. Scientific research now shows us the ways that music has a physiological effect on our bodies and can improve concentration, relieve stress, act as an antidepressant and more.

Music’s beneficial effects on mental health have been known for thousands of years. Ancient philosophers from Plato to Confucius and the kings of Israel sang the praises of music and used it to help soothe stress. Military bands use music to build confidence and courage. Sporting events provide music to rouse enthusiasm. Schoolchildren use music to memorize their ABCs. Shopping malls play music to entice consumers and keep them in the store. Dentists play music to help calm nervous patients.
– Mental Health, Naturally: The Family Guide to Holistic Care for a Healthy Mind and Body

Take a moment and listen to Billie Holiday’s Lady Sings the Blues and you will be transported to another time. Sing along with her and you may ooze with the feelings as if they are your own. Crank up Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and you will be filled with emotions you may have never known existed. This capacity to feel is core to having compassion, yet music also has a profound effect on cognitive processes and learning also.

Listening to musicMusic has a profound effect on cognitive processes and learning

Auditory biology is not frozen in time. It’s a moving target. And music education really does seem to enhance communication by strengthening language skills.
– Nina Kraus, the Hugh Knowles Professor of Communication Sciences, Neurobiology & Physiology, and Otolaryngology at Northwestern University as well as the principal investigator at the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory

Musical entrainment

Musical entrainment creates connection both internally and externally which can be seen when watching a whole crowd dance to a live band, or the people around you sobbing at an opera. Science explains this as an aspect of mirror neurons, which are a form of mimicking that can happen emotionally and physically. Maybe a song will give you chills, make you cry, or spontaneously start jamming on an air guitar, or dancing uncontrollably. In the study, The Neuroscience of Music, published by the Department of Psychology at McGill University, Montreal, researchers found preliminary scientific evidence supporting claims that music influences health through neurochemical changes in four domains: reward, motivation and pleasure; stress and arousal; immunity; and social affiliation.

Woman listening to musicListening to music has potentially therapeutic effects

The potential therapeutic effects of music listening have been largely attributed to its ability to reduce stress and modulate arousal levels. Listening to ‘relaxing music’ (generally considered to have slow tempo, low pitch, and no lyrics) has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety in healthy subjects, patients undergoing invasive medical procedures (e.g., surgery, colonoscopy, dental procedures, pediatric patients undergoing medical procedures, and patients with coronary heart disease.
The Neurochemistry of Music

Human cultural universal

It is no surprise that music has been used in ritual and ceremony since the beginning of time. Women share playlists for the delivery room to welcome new life. You can even higher a hospice harpist to help the transition from a terminal disease. Music education has also been shown to help children’s developing brains. So it is only natural to place it in a category for mindfulness, meditation, and healing.

Music is a language of energy, a “vibe” of emotions and joy. It speaks to our core desires and feelings. It speaks to our core desires and feelings. It spans language barriers and political borders, making it a powerful means through which humans can connect.
– Patrick Groneman

Crowd listening to musicMusic is a powerful means through which humans can connect

Music is also a reflection of culture. In today’s world we are experiencing an unprecedented fusion of ideas through the internet and technology. We are re-mixing historical themes, embellishing forgotten ideas and combining belief systems across time and societies. For instance, electronic dance music has captured wide acclaim as DJs and producers improvise with musical tools that have the ability to drop samples, mix, change tempo and induce ecstatic states of consciousness. This music has become central to the emerging transformational, or visionary culture that is influencing our world view through integrating art, spirituality and technology.

As with everything else, it is our conscious intention or lack of it, that makes the difference in our experience.Try exploring new music when you want to get out of a rut. Just as you are what you eat, you should choose your music wisely because it is influencing the way you feel whether you notice it or not.

How do you feel about this article? Join the conversation.

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Jacob Devaney

Founder and director of Culture Collective, creative activist, musician, and producer.

 

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  • David E. Robinson III

    I love this article. “RESEARCH” is the word. Music is much more important than many people realize. Some government and school officials want to cut it out of the public schools. They may leave in general music, but cut out band and orchestra where a student can actually actively engage in playing a musical instrument. In instrumental music, playing an instrument to make music can build a child’s self-esteem and sense of accomplishment, which can help in all academic subjects such as math, science, social studies, language arts, and foreign languages. Being a part of the school band or orchestra can make a child belong to the school; school spirit, school pride, citizenship, train for leadership, taking on responsibilities, organizational skills, preparing to become professional in any field of human endeavor, and so on.

    Music serves so many purposes as expressed in this article. Did you know that there is a field called, “music therapy?” Yes, college music students can major in it. The University of Georgia has such a program. Music can be healing. I know that when I get up in my years in life, I will play my records and play my musical instruments. When I am playing organ or piano at church and I am feeling ill, at the end of service I feel much better. It was music that has kept me going to church consistently for over 40 years in music ministry. I let the Lord minister to me when I play songs that I really like. In one of my previous churches when I would arrive early and just want to play some of these songs, the bossy old music director (of a youth choir) would tell me to stop and play what the want to hear. Sometimes I would have to hide in the sanctuary until rehearsal begins and play to my heart’s and spirit’s content. Some people don’t know that musicians like to minister to themselves through God.

    Going back to “cuts” in school music programs, it is just plain ignorance to think that music is not important. It is not worth spending money on. But believe it or not, band and orchestra programs in schools benefit student whether or not every student plays. The non-musician would say, “We are having an assembly. I want to hear the band/orchestra play that song. They be jammin.'” The band and orchestra students are likely to be on the honor roll and score high on standardized tests. Instrumental music in the schools build the moral of the student body, faculty, staff, and visitors. Band and orchestra students are “peer ambassadors” representing excellence and joy in education. Some students say that band or orchestra is their favorite class. I have former students that say that I was their favorite teacher.

    As for parents, your child can have a good time in sports, but he/she will probably not make professionally…in sports. It is a long shot unless he/she is exceptional (I know a few that are). A lot of athletes coming out of college that were superstars get drafted in major league baseball, football, basketball, soccer, etc., and get cut from those teams during the training periods before those seasons start. One major injury can end it. It can be devastating if he/she does not have an education to fall back on. Great athletes get into college easily without having good test scores or without having an average G.P.A. (talk about cheating scandals of colleges being unfair to those non-athletes that do meet and even exceed those requirements, but cannot get in, having tests taken for them, changing grades, not attending classes, etc., but that is a whole ‘nuther subject). Yes, a great education can be beneficial, but not many college athletes take academics seriously (some do not have a major).

    Music is a great investment that keeps on paying dividends. This article shows that in addition to enjoyment, an avenue to become better in school academically, a way to help pay for college (earning scholarships, playing solos, ensembles, and orchestras on the side, recordings, etc.), a possible career in it, or a hobby, there are many health benefits. Please read this article.

    I teach in public schools where students tell me that their parents cannot afford to purchase an instrument or even rent one for about $25.00-$30.00 a month. What does the future hold for these children if this investment is not made? A parent might say, “well, my child ain’t serious about anything.” Put an instrument in his/her hand and he/she might become serious about it and about the rest of school. When can that transition to “seriousness” happen in a child’s life? Music offers HOPE that a child can go to college because learning music can help a child do well in math, science, social studies, history, and foreign language. That means a DOUBLE COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIP BENEFIT: MUSIC AND ACADEMICS. Another benefit is earning money playing that instrument. If he/she does not become a professional musician he/she can become something else and play music on the side to make extra money. That is a solution to make ends meet in this society where the bills are sky-high and continually rising. I advise high school band and orchestra students to learn to play the piano because there are churches that need musicians. i know band and orchestra directors (including myself) that play at churches. And the spiritual benefit as I explained earlier…parents, although I am a teacher and not a preacher, the spiritual benefit of music is a good thing.

    • Emily W

      Very well said. I will also add that choir is also beneficial in many of the same ways orchestra and band are.

  • Clark Hodge

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  • Tamara Nerdrum

    Hi Jacob et al.
    Love the article on “Research Shows the Health Benefits of Music” dated Friday November 6th, 2015. There are many viewpoints that are similar to my Master’s Thesis, titled, “Neurobiology of Healing Traumatic Brain Injury: Using Music as the Connecting Chord.” It is published through ProQuest in June 2014. Much of the research was based on Oliver Sack’s work and his published case studies, but the newer research was cited from the neuroscience and psychology departments at McGill University. It is fascinating science, which is now measured through MRI and PET scans.

  • David E. Robinson III

    Yes, all music. Orchestra gets cut first. General music and choral music are likely to remain longer. President Obama sang in the chorus in his schools growing up. I stress instrumental music, especially orchestra because it gets “cancelled out” in a music discussion where officials say, “we didn’t cut out all music. Go sing in the chorus.” If they cut out band and orchestra, they will cut out general music and chorus next.

  • Allie

    Beautiful article, thank you! I am a musician and intuitively know this all firsthand. Wonderful to read scientific research regarding music and its relationship to our core emotions. Loved it!!!

    *There is a typo in the article. Boxed quote from Patrick Groneman has two of the same sentence. Just FYI. 😉 *

  • Amy Oestreicher

    I absolutely love this article! I used composing music to find myself after my coma and surgeries. To find myself again after so many medical interventions, I painted, I
    danced, I wrote, I sang – but it was the act of writing and putting
    those words to music – to sing them from my gut – that allowed me to
    accept my body again – a body vastly different from the one I grew up
    in. Songwriting was my therapy, and within a month, I had written over
    thirty songs. I wrote a bit about it here: https://www.amyoes.com/2015/09/23/composing-the-way-back-from-coma-three-songs/

  • MissBrenda Lee Gertman

    I knew it!!!

  • Racil Hilan

    Listening to our favourite music always gives us a pleasant feeling!!! That’s why we have discovered Yendif Music Share to get your favourite music online!!! Our software is highly user friendly in which you can allow users to add songs/ playlists, and also allow Rating and Commenting!!! Now enjoy the feel of music with Yendif Music Share!!!

    http://yendifplayer.com/joomla/music-share-genres.html

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