Music & Health

Music touches every area of our lives.

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Music has the power to cure every problem. As conductor Leonard Bernstein said, “Music can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable.”

Music is integral to the fabric of our lives. Surrounded by music, most of us don’t realize the powerful effect it has on our daily mental, physical, and spiritual health. Music can change our metabolism, circulation, blood volume, pulse, blood pressure, and moods.

“Music influences our health, emotions and behavior.”

Music can make us laugh, cry, or worship God. It can calm us or whip us into an emotional frenzy. Hearing “our song” can trigger sweet memories and longing for those times.

Have you ever sat somewhere and marveled at how quiet it was? We are acutely aware of sound because it is unusual to be without noise. We always hear machines, traffic, planes, other people. Exposure to noises can cause irritation, stress, and result in permanent hearing loss and health problems.

On the other hand, melodious tunes can soothe a stressed spirit and increase everything from your concentration to your coordination, your immunity, and your memory.

How Music Affects Us
Good music stimulates intellect and emotion; appeals to ethics and art; brings an appreciation for beauty and excellence. Ancient philosophers knew music had a positive effect on body and mind. A prime example is the biblical story of David calming King Saul’s moods by playing the harp. Today, many people suffering from insomnia find that some of Bach’s music helps them sleep.

Music Changes Moods
Music has been shown to improve memory, performance, motor skills, coordination, concentration, and attention. It can also enhance intelligence and learning.

Other research links listening to music to improved mental skills. Mozart’s music lowers stress and increases concentration. A study in England found students scored 10 points higher on an IQ test after listening to Mozart compared to those exposed to silence, white noise, or other music.

Certain music invigorates people, while different melodies calm them. Some tunes make you sleepy or keep others awake. Supermarkets, department stores, and event managers have used music for years to make people move faster or slower, to encourage them to shop longer, to move them to action, or help them to relax. In the everyday working world, scientifically-planned background music has been found to increase production and cut down on boredom, fatigue, and tension.

We use programmed music today to make jogging, walking, or other exercises easier and more fun. Lively popular music boosts energy and endurance.

Certain religious music induces a feeling of peace and helps a person cope with physical and emotional pain. On the other end of the spectrum, heavy metal, rap, or martial music excites the nervous system and prompts people to dynamic action or aggressive behavior. It’s not surprising that Gulf War pilots listened to heavy metal music before launching flights into battle.

Different Uses for Music
There are many medical studies confirming music’s healing potential. It can reduce levels of serum cortisol, enhance the body’s ability to heal after an operation and and boost the immune system, reduce blood pressure and stress.

Researchers have found that soothing music can sometimes have a calming effect on an overactive heart. Dwight Eisenhower used Brahms and Bach to help him recover from a heart attack.

Music has varied healing properties. Music can speed recovery time following strenuous exercise. On the other hand, some lively or fast-paced music can increase metabolism, which may prove helpful for people trying to lose weight.

Oliver Sacks, a famed neurologist who writes about his patients’ case studies, notes there are certain forms of epilepsy provoked by only one specific piece of music. Some people experience colors or tastes when they hear certain sounds. There are those who suffer from very profound amnesia but keep their musical abilities. Musical hallucinations caused by a variety of neurological conditions are not uncommon with effects that can range from gratification to torture. In some forms of mental retardation musical ability is accentuated. For instance, there is one idiot savant who can sing 2,000 opera arias in every language known to opera.

Why do our bodies react to music? Researchers believe that music affects us because our physical bodies are rhythmic: in respiration, heartbeats, brain waves, walk, and speech. The impact of music appears to be in the way musical sounds reach and affect the brain.

Light, easy-paced music tends to help most people concentrate for a longer time; it improves their ability to memorize facts. However, with some people, the very same music has the opposite effect. It distracts and disturbs those who are more analytical or inhibited than the norm.

Music performed by one artist or heard by one person can become a masterpiece—something to uplift and inspire. That’s why it is important to learn to identify and appreciate the various forms of music that can improve your state of mind and enhance a sense of well-being.

Bottom line: music influences our health, emotions and behavior. By learning about its effects, we can use it to our benefit. Listen to different kinds of music to determine its effect on
you.

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