Image: Marie Vonow
Many people enjoy listening to music. Some like their music loud and others like it soft. There are those who like a fast beat and others who prefer a slower tempo. Some have an eclectic taste in music, liking a bit of this and that. There are those who derive pleasure from playing an instrument, perhaps even composing the music they play. For others, listening to the music played by others makes them happy. Whether you are playing music or simply listening to it there are numerous health benefits.
Five benefits of playing or listening to music you enjoy are-
1. Decreases feelings of anxiety
2. Makes you happier
3. Reduces stress
4. Boosts the immune system
5. Slows down ageing of the brain
Music can decrease feelings of anxiety
Research has shown people who listened to music after heart surgery were less anxious and experienced less pain than those who rested in a silent room. A study of cancer patients at Drexel University in the USA found those who participated in music therapy sessions or regularly just listened to music benefitted with a reduction in anxiety levels.
Many people find their favourite music reduces anxious feelings. Particular music associated with a positive event can help calm an individual. A study found people who suffer anxiety from travelling on public transport benefit from listening to enjoyable music while travelling.
There are internet sites which feature music found to be particularly good for reducing anxiety. As everyone has their own taste in music it is likely different music works best for different people.
Music makes you happier
When you listen to music you enjoy the brain releases dopamine, a ‘feel good’ chemical. Studies have found music with a quick beat is more likely to increase feelings of happiness. However, music with a slow beat has an important role to play as it slows down the brainwaves which can lead to a relaxed meditative type of state.
Music reduces stress
People who play music and those who listen to it can benefit from the way it calms the mind and lowers stress levels. Being exposed to enjoyable music decreases the amount of cortisol (sometimes referred to as the stress hormone) released. Keeping the cortisol level lower helps one sleep better and a good night’s sleep helps lower stress. Music can help lessen the body's sensitivity to pain.
Music boosts the immune system
Prolonged release of cortisol suppresses the immune system meaning the body is less effective at fighting off infection. Research has shown listening to or playing music can boost the immune system by
• Reducing the level of cortisol
• Increasing the number of the cells that attack cancerous cells and bacteria
• Increasing the level of Immunoglobal A, an antibody important in the prevention of infection
Research at the Max Planck Institute suggested the type of musicwas not important so long as the listener found it uplifting.
Music can slow ageing of the brain
Research has found music with a fast beat improves concentration and makes the listener more mentally alert. Listening to music or playing an instrument has been found to be beneficial to the brain by improving memory and mental sharpness. This is particularly important as a person ages.
People with a degree of brain damage can benefit from listening to familiar music and may even regain some memories.
Music of some sort is enjoyed by many people. Even without hearing the results of research I think many of us just knew it was good for us because music makes us feel happy.