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How Does Music Affect the Mind and Body?

When you hear your favorite music, how does it make you feel? Perhaps it brings back fond memories and transports you — even momentarily — to another time and place. Maybe it makes you feel relaxed from head to toe. Or maybe it gets your blood pumping and makes you want to get up and dance.

Few other experiences in life have the wide array of effects on us that music has. Whether you want to destress, get motivated, forget your troubles or focus on a project, the right music can help you get there. Music also impacts both our minds and bodies in a variety of ways, from lowering anxiety to improving sleep, reducing pain and blood pressure, boosting mood, and increasing memory and mental alertness. Let’s look at the many benefits of music for both mental and physical well-being.

The Connection Between Music and the Mind

Experts say that what physical activity can do for your body, music may do for your brain. In fact, listening to music can keep your brain engaged as you age and provides a total brain workout.

Any music lover can tell you that music can help you recall emotions from other times in life. It turns out that the power of music, found to bring back powerful memories, has a firm foundation in science; music that stimulates you can cause your brain neurons to fire. When you hear the same song again later, those memory patterns become stronger. The more you hear that familiar tune, the stronger those neuron connections become.

Music has its roots in early human history, and researchers have explored the connections between music and health for many years.

Benefits for the Brain

Here are some of the specific benefits music may provide for your mind:

  • Reducing depression symptoms. If you feel blue, music may help boost your mood, research has found. Meditative and classical formats help many people feel uplifted, while genres like heavy metal may make you feel more depressed.
  • Boosting cognition. Research has found that background music may improve performance for test takers, implying that it may influence other cognitive tasks as well. Individuals listening to music were able to finish more test questions during the allowed time, and they answered more questions correctly.
  • Lowering stress levels. A medical abstract showed listening to music may trigger stress-reducing biochemicals in your body. Music may also reduce stress specifically related to surgery.
  • Bettering your mood. Research has found that music may help you get in touch with your feelings, and you may find yourself in a better mood as a result. 
  • Improving your performance under pressure. Upbeat music helped basketball players who had a tendency to perform poorly when they were under pressure, research has found.

The Impact of Music on Your Body

Older adults who are involved in the arts show improvements in both mental and physical health. By easing challenges in mental health — such as anxiety and depression — music can also help with physical problems like pain, poor sleep, and reduced heart rate, breathing rate and circulation.

In some cases, music may help even more than medication with physical problems. One study found that stressed individuals who listened to music prior to surgery reduced their anxiety more effectively and had lower levels of cortisol than those who took anti-anxiety medications.

In addition, music may also lower blood pressure, improve sleep and boost immune function. It may also help individuals recover after strokes and may have an impact on helping prevent seizures.

Research has found several other physical benefits from listening to music, including:

  • Improving endurance during exercise. A study showed listening to fast-paced tunes can improve physical performance during a workout session as well as increase endurance. 
  • Reducing pain. Research found that music can lower the perceived strength of pain, especially in intensive care along with geriatric and palliative care. 
  • Speeding up recovery after workouts. Listening to music after you exercise may help your body recover more quickly. Slower music may have more of an impact on relaxation, but any type of music may aid in the process of physical recovery.
  • Helping you cut calories. Listening to soft music and lowering the lights while you eat may help you slow down during your meal. The study reports that as a result, you may consume less food at mealtime, possibly because eating more slowly helps you become mindful of cues that you’ve had enough.
  • Improving functioning of blood vessels. The emotions you experience while listening to music — rather than the music itself — may have a positive impact on the functioning of your blood vessels. 

Incorporating Music into Your Day

Now that you know more about the many benefits of music for your mind and body, what are some steps you can take to bring the power of music into your everyday life or the life of your family member?

You may want to start by recalling some music you listened to but haven’t heard recently. If you enjoyed The Beatles in your youth, why not pull out a CD or use a music app to enjoy a selection of hits that you’ll remember? As you hear familiar tunes, you may recall special moments from the past.

In addition, you can begin incorporating music into different activities during your day. If you’re washing dishes or sweeping the floor, for example, why not turn on some favorite tunes to get your feet tapping? A daily walk is a great time to enjoy some music as well — but be sure to keep the music low enough that you can remain aware of your surroundings.

To get exposed to some new music, consider consulting with the experts: teenagers. Grandchildren — either yours or those of friends — will be able to suggest the artists and songs they like, and you may just discover some new favorites. You may find that listening to newer music challenges your brain as you become accustomed to new formats and beats.

Whether you listen to new hits or familiar classics, be aware of how your body reacts, and choose the types you like best. When you listen to a certain song, do you feel agitated or distracted? Or do you find yourself moving and grooving along to the beat? You are your own best guide to your preferences and the types of music to which you’ll respond positively.

Scientists have found that everyone has a certain rhythm they enjoy — known as the preferred motor tempo. When you hear music with the right tempo for you, you may feel more motivated, energetic and even excited. 

Once you identify your favorite tunes — and especially those with your preferred motor tempo — consider creating playlists in an app for different tasks, such as cleaning, relaxing and exercising.

Enjoy Music and the Arts at Medford Leas

At Medford Leas, you’ll find multiple ways for you or your family member to enjoy music every day. We’re conveniently located near a variety of entertainment venues, where you can enjoy live dance and musical performances. You can also enjoy your personal playlists on our activity paths and in our fitness centers as you take time for wellness. To find out more about our community, contact us today to schedule your visit.


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