The Healing Powers of Music

Whether you prefer jamming out to rock and roll, grooving to jazz or relaxing to classical, music can often be just what you need to brighten up your day. But listen to this: While your favorite music provides a shot of acoustic pleasure, it also has a very real impact on your everyday health and fitness.

The role of music in improving health has been studied extensively, whether as a way to reduce anxiety or manage physical and mental health. Regardless of the goal, the key according to several studies is simply choosing music you’re most familiar with or like best. While there’s no one style of music that works for everyone, listening to the tunes you enjoy the most or those that bring you back to a positive experience can boost your body and mind in several ways:

  • Eases physical pain: Throwing on your favorite tracks can provide an easy distraction that increases your ability to tolerate pain. It’s actually more effective at doing so than other distractions, such as seeing vivid images or beautiful landscapes.
  • Improves mental performance: Listening to music engages the whole brain and can boost your memory and recall (though findings are mixed on its ability to improve your test scores). It has also been shown as an effective treatment for improving recall in those with dementia.
  • Enhances sleep quality: Listening to music, particularly slower tracks around 60 beats per minute, can help you relax, get to sleep faster and experience more restful sleep. In one study, participants reported a 35 percent improvement in sleep quality (length and restfulness) after listening to calming music around bedtime.
  • Helps heart health and blood pressure: The relaxing effect of music applies to the body as well as the mind. Listening to your favorite music can relax the blood vessels, regulating heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Fights stress and boost immune function: Those who often listen to music may see lower levels of stress-induced cortisol. Reduced stress and anxiety can also lead to increased levels of disease fighting antibodies in the system, improving immune function.

How has music improved your health? Let us know in the comments below. And check out the following blog posts for more on the powers of music:

Photo credit: Katie Mollon

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  1. Unfortunately the physiological effects of sound are not well known by very many professionals or the general public. The developmental areas affected by learning to play a musical instrument are alluded to but rarely placed in a definitive context. It is still viewed as very soft science.

  2. Music is a valuable tool for your health and relaxation. It is also an excellent tool in teaching young children to read and learn math. Mind Meets Music is a program for lower elementary in the Grand Rapids, MI area that has proven to be effective.

  3. I very much enjoyed the article and agree that music is a powerful tool that can support issues that we encounter as we age. At the beginning of my career in education, I taught instrumental and vocal music. After 13 years I moved into School Administration. For a while I continued to direct church choirs, but I put my instrument way back in the closet. After 25 years as an Elementary Principal I retired because of a health issue. Fortunately, I joined a Senior Center that believes that music has a positive impact on the aging process. I began participating in an instrumental ensemble and a mixed chorus. Playing trumpet and singing has had a tremendous impact on my physical health, as well as, social needs. Now I encourage seniors to dust off and start playing those instruments that have been stuffed in the closet or remind others that it is never to late to learn and enjoy playing that instrument they always wished they had.
    I feel fortunate to have found a program that brought the joy of making music back in my life.

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