Music Keeps Brain Healthy Plus More Surprises
Whether it’s Mozart, Stravinsky, or Kool and the Gang, we all love music. But science has shown that music does far more than just “soothe the soul” (as if that wasn’t enough). As you’ll learn in this article, anyone interested in brain health, heart health, or any kind of health can benefit from music. I’ll be sharing with you some tips for how to maximize your therapeutic benefits from music as well.
Music Reverses Brain Aging
When we were in our 20s, 30s, and 40s, most of us gave little thought to the effects of aging. But now that we’re a bit more mature, we may know what it’s like to feel “not as sharp” as we once were. The good news is, however, as I often share with you, brain aging is avoidable. And, furthermore, it is reversible. Music is one of the many ways to improve your brain health.
Research shows that focused and appreciative listening to music improve cognitive function. When we listen to music we use lots of different areas of our brain at the same time. And all those parts work together. The part of our brain involved in mathematical calculations, emotions, memory, prediction, and more all work together like one...symphony. The result is that people who listen to music actively can improve the health of their brains.
As good as listening to music is, researchers have found that playing music is even more beneficial. You don’t have to become a virtuoso to get the benefits, either. Studies have found that adults who play an instrument enjoy even better brain health than do listeners. That may be because playing music exercises even more areas of the brain.
Heals the Heart
As I’ve mentioned in a previous article, high blood pressure (hypertension) is a serious problem among American men. And high blood pressure is a warning sign of cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death among American men. The good news is that along with many of the other recommendations I’ve shared with you in previous articles, music is proven to improve blood pressure and cardiovascular health.
In one study men with high blood pressure could effectively lower their blood pressure within healthy ranges simply by listening to music for 30 minutes at a time.
Numerous studies have shown that patients with heart disease have much better outcomes when they listen to music.
If you ever suffer from insomnia or feel that your sleep isn’t as refreshing as it should be, music may be able to help. Numerous studies have shown that music improves sleep many ways.
When people who have trouble sleeping listen to music research shows that it does the following: reduces the amount of time to fall asleep, increases the length of sleep, improves sleep quality, and reduces daytime problems.
When stress hormones are chronically elevated, immune function decreases. Unfortunately, statistically, as men age their stress hormone levels increase. It doesn’t have to be the case, however. And one of the ways to lower elevated stress hormones is to listen to music. The result is improved immunity.
Researchers have found that listening to uplifting music in particular has a beneficial effect on immune function. In one study participants listened to 50 minutes of uplifting music. As a result, there were measurable, significant improvements in immune function.
Modern epidemics of depression and anxiety affect a huge number of men in the United States. And the effects can range from limiting to disabling. In previous articles I’ve touched on these issues, but I never mentioned that music has been proven to help with how we feel.
A handful of studies have demonstrated that listening to music and music therapy can produce significant benefits in cases of depression and anxiety. Just listening to music that is soothing and enjoyable to you can produce benefits both in the short term and the long term.
Music has also been shown to reduce pain perception. And because depression and anxiety are sometimes linked to physical pain, it may be that music can produce double the benefits.
Including More Music In Your Life
The first step to use music therapeutically in your life is to listen to music more often. If you haven’t been in the habit of listening to music frequently, find times when you can immerse yourself in the experience of listening to and appreciating music. Although music in the background while doing other activities may offer some benefits, in most cases the most benefits are gained when listening actively to music.
Experiment with different ways to include more music in your life. You may find that it is helpful for you to take a few breaks during the day to put on some headphones and listen to music for 10-15 minutes. If you have a daily commute, then try listening to music instead of the news. And perhaps consider doubling up two beneficial activities by combining walking with attentive music listening.
Any which way you do it, when you listen to the music, really immerse yourself in it. Allow yourself to feel and appreciate the music in new ways. When you do this, you activate more of your brain and body and give yourself greater benefits.
When it comes to the type of music that you listen to, there are a few things to consider. For one, the type of music that you listen to can influence the type of experience you have. For the purposes of general brain health research shows that any music will do. However, if you want help sleeping heavy metal probably isn’t the best choice. And if you’re looking to boost immunity, you probably want something that has a soothing and uplifting effect for you.
Experts suggest that in order to gain the most brain benefits it is best to introduce new music regularly. And that includes new styles of music as well. If you’ve never listened to experimental jazz, now’s the time to give it a try. And if you think that you couldn’t possibly enjoy rap music, explore the genre to find something you can enjoy. You needn’t listen to music that you genuinely don’t like. But challenging yourself to try and appreciate new types of music can keep your brain sharp.
Finally, if you learned how to play an instrument but haven’t played in years, pick it up again. Or learn to play a new instrument. It can be both fun and healthy.