If you enjoy listening to music, then you’re not alone. As Stevie Wonder once said “music is a world within itself, it is a language we all understand”. Whether it’s blasting through the speakers in our car, playing in the background at work or booming through our IPod whilst we work out, many of us revel in the sounds that music brings to our ears.
I am grateful to have grown up in a household that always had music playing, and I continue to do this as an adult. I have a large music collection, a rich repertoire of music knowledge and I’m a good asset to have on your team at a quiz night. Unfortunately, my parents taste in music was at times, questionable, and my memory has held on to lyrics of too many bad songs that I grew up with (“Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl, with yellow feath…”). You get the picture.
We know that playing an instrument is good for our brain, but the benefits of music is not limited to only those who can play. For those non-musicians out there, who can play nothing more than a smooth rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star like myself, merely listening to music can have a powerful effect on your mind and body.
If you’ve ever jumped into your car after a rotten day at work and felt better after listening to a particular song at the highest decibel you could cope with, then you will know the positive effect that music can have on your stress levels. It decreases the cortisol levels in your body, which counteracts the effects of stress and anxiety.
Listening to music in the car has also been shown to reduce road rage as it progressively increases your mood whilst you are driving. Music that we enjoy can also make us happier, as our brain releases dopamine whilst we are listening, which gives us an emotional boost that makes us feel euphoric. So music can play a role in reducing the symptoms of depression.
For those who want to boost performance in a specific area of their life, would fair better by playing their favourite playlist in the lead up to whatever they need to do. Whether it be a speaking gig or an athletic performance, music pumps us up and energises us for optimal performance. There’s one major reason why people work out to music - it's because they perform better when listening to it.
Listening to music can also help with easing pain. A recent study showed that patients who listened to music before, during and after surgery reduced their pain considerably, even more so than the use of painkillers. Music turns our attention away from pain. As Bob Marley once said, “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain”.
Sleeping problems can also be hampered by listening to music. It’s not only babies that can fall asleep to a soft lullaby. Music has a soothing ability that can even benefit us adults. So if counting sheep isn’t working for you at the moment, perhaps a countdown of your favourite soft tunes is a better alternative.
The key to music being beneficial to our psychological and physical health is that it needs to be enjoyable to us, personally. Listening to Kanye West when you’re a Mozart fan, or Kylie Minogue when you prefer Slipknot is not going to work. In fact, it will probably have the opposite effect.
To get the greatest health benefits out of music, play whatever type you want, and as loud or soft as you like it. It affects the emotional functions of your brain, so make sure it has meaning to you.
There’s nothing like music to make an event more enjoyable, to get one reminiscing about their past or to make you feel more alive. And there’s nothing like music to make you feel better.
In fact, music might be the medicine you need right now.