It’s More Than Music!
Listening to music feels good, but can that translate into physical, emotional or
psychological benefits?

As a music lover and a  jazz music radio host, I try to set a mood for each show and
having a weekly show has made me think a lot more about music. Music inundates a
large part of our lives and I thought it would be interesting and useful to have a look at
some of the ways we react to it without even realizing.

Research has learned a great deal about the power of music  and here are a few
interesting music traits we all share.

•        People around the world experience universal responses to music.
•        Your musical taste does accurately say something about you, including your

         
politics.
•        Your musical taste is influenced by your parents
•        You love your favorite song because it is associated with an intense emotional experience in your life.
•        The music you enjoyed when you were 20 you will probably love for the rest of your life.


The fact is, there is not a single human culture on earth that has lived without music! For example, native Africans and Americans both used
music in the form of chanting for their rituals and healing ceremonies. In Ancient Greece, music was used to ease stress, soothe pain and help
with sleeping patterns. Many have said music heals the soul, and it appears that they were right!

Music is so good for your brain because it is one of the few activities that stimulates your whole brain. Because music is structural,
mathematical, and architectural based on relationships between one note and the next, it is a total brain workout.

We are all familiar with how certain pieces of music can change your mood, get you motivated, or help you concentrate.  And now, advances in
neuroscience enable researchers to measure how music affects the brain. Their discoveries are exciting, and good news for music lovers.
Music is a fantastic brain exercise that activates every known part of the brain. Let’s take a closer look at some of the latest findings on the
many ways both playing and listening to music can enhance your mind, body and soul.

Music Reduces Stress and Depression
Music can have positive effects on the psyche, mood, pain and quality of life as well.  A meta-analysis of 400 studies validated the many health
benefits of listening to music including lowering of the stress hormone cortisol. In one study reviewed, patients about to undergo surgery who
listened to music had less anxiety and lower cortisol levels than people who had taken drugs. The analysis determined that music had
documented positive effects on brain chemistry and associated mental and physical health benefits in four areas: Lifting mood, Boosting
immunity, and Aiding social bonding.

Also, researchers from Drexel University found that cancer patients who either listened to music or worked with a music therapist experienced
a reduction in anxiety, had better blood pressure levels and improved moods.

Music Boosts Your Immune System & Reduces Pain
Research has shown that music is capable of reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is responsible for weakening the immune
system, increasing risk of heart disease, interfering with learning and memory, lowering bone density, blood pressure, etc.  Studies have found
that by listening to just 50 minutes of uplifting music the levels of antibodies in the human body increases. While different types of music were
not studied, it is important one listens to music they enjoy as personal preference of music does have an effect on overall physical effects.

Keeps an Aging Brain Healthy
Research has shown that having musical training and listening to or playing music in old age can help keep the brain healthy especially as it
ages. Since listening to music is like exercising the brain, one can expect the benefits of better memory and mental sharpness as they age.

Improves Sleep Quality
Some of the most common things to interfere with sleep are stress and anxiety (heart rates). Since music has the ability to affect both in a
positive way, research has found that listening to music at various times promotes better sleep patterns for people and even created more
restful sleeps. In some cases music might even be able to be used to effectively treat insomnia.

Music and Exercise
The weight room is no place to try new genres. Playing your favorites can boost performance. Research indicates that your performance while
listening to your Preferred Music was greater than under Non-preferred Music conditions. Therefore, listening to Preferred Music during
continuous exercise can increase your exercise stamina.

Music Makes You Smarter & Happier
There is a ton of evidence that music lessons improve IQ.  But there's even research that says listening to classical music might boost
brainpower as well. Listening to music triggers the brain’s releasing of the feel-good neurochemical dopamine, which is an integral part of the
pleasure-reward and motivational systems and plays a critical role in learning. Higher dopamine levels improve concentration, boost mood,
and enhance memory. Dopamine is the chemical responsible for the yummy feelings you get from eating chocolate, having an orgasm, or
achieving a runner’s high.

Music has the power to do so much. It can make you feel happy, sad, excited or even pumped up. Listening to music that hits you in a special
way also, causes your brain to release dopamine which is known as a feel good chemical. Music with a quick tempo played in a major key
made people feel happy, while music with a slow tempo in a minor key more easily led to feelings of sadness.

Music Can Help You Find Love
Want to get the interest of that special someone? Put on the romantic music. Very interesting current research from Psychology of Music has
shown that women were more likely to give their number to men after hearing love songs.

Science shows that music can help alleviate depression and help a person feel more hopeful and in control of their life. Playing music with
others or enjoying live music gets the brain hormone oxytocin flowing increasing feelings of connectedness, trust, and social bonding.

Most importantly: Music makes us feel good, and in the end, that's worth a lot.

Illustration by Donna J. Parker