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The Benefits of Music: Surprisingly Powerful for Mind & Body

Most people have an instinctive love of music. We may differ on which genre is our favorite (and whether or not we can sing in tune), but the benefits of music are there for us all.

You probably know some of them offhand, just by the way you feel after listening to your favorite song. However, music goes much deeper for your health than just a perception of feeling better. It actually influences your brain and body in powerful ways.

Here’s more on the therapeutic potential of music and specific ways it can boost your health.

How Music Works (What We Know & Don’t Know)

Music has a very ethereal quality to it, making it seem almost set apart from the physical world. But like everything else we can sense, it has a specific way of interacting with your brain.

Basically, all sounds, including music, are vibrations that travel through the air and enter your ear canal. Experts believe that they are then transmitted to the brain stem as an electrical signal that goes through the auditory nerve. In the case of music, your brain translates individual sounds and notes into songs and rhythms.

That being said, researchers still aren’t sure exactly how- or why- what we call music has such a powerful effect on the brain. Or, for that matter, what causes people to like a certain style of music and dislike another.

There is, however, absolutely no doubt that music has a very unique effect on brain activity.

Studies done with MRI technology have repeatedly found that both listening to and creating music light up certain areas of the brain. Notably, the scans showed remarkably similar patterns based on music preference rather than type of music.

This is something to keep in mind as you read more about the benefits of music. While the type of music does have some influence, ultimately your favorite songs and genre are going to affect you the most.

So don’t let anyone convince you that your taste in music is poor! Your brain knows best.

The Benefits of Music for Mind & Body

Stimulates Your Brain & Boosts Recovery

As shown by brain scans, one of the biggest effects of music is to stimulate your brain. Research is still ongoing in this area, but it’s clear already that there is a lot of complexity involved.

Music preference, music style, tempo, lyrics vs. no lyrics, and how complex the music itself is all seem to play a role in how your brain is affected. Also, brain activity in areas associated with vision decreases when you are focused on listening. This indicates that music can ‘fire up’ your brain in ways other activities can’t.

An area where this could prove tremendously helpful is recovery from brain injury.

As a case in point, studies indicate that music therapy could be a powerful aid for stroke recovery. One study found that it can be particularly beneficial in the early stages after a stroke. Those who listened to music for a few hours each day had better recovery of verbal memory and attention compared to audio books or no listening material.

Improves Learning and Memory

With its stimulating effects, it should come as no surprise that music can boost memory and learning ability. Many very different studies have demonstrated this clearly.

In one study, participants who listened to classical music while they worked outperformed those who listened to no music or white noise on a memory test. The researchers also noted that processing speed improved the most with upbeat music.

Other research has revealed that putting something you are trying to memorize to music can give you much better recall accuracy. This could explain why remembering the lyrics to a new song is easier than recalling a lecture.

Also, while music doesn’t seem to reverse memory loss in those with neurological disorders, it has been shown to slow cognitive decline and improve working memory in certain dementia patients.

The bottom line? Keep listening to music regularly as you get older!

Boosts Your Mood & Lowers Stress

The benefits of music for mood and stress are practically self-evident. The right song can take you from grouchy or tense to uplifted in just a moment or two. In fact, researchers have found that managing or changing mood is the number one reason people listen to music.

So why does music work so well for mood?

One reason is that more of the mood-enhancing chemical dopamine is released in your brain when you are listening to music. There’s also evidence that levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) drop in response to music, which explains its stress-lowering potential.

In this case, music type almost certainly makes a different (as well as personal favorites). For example, listening to sad music is unlikely to lift your mood like an upbeat tune will.

May Reduce Symptoms of Depression & Anxiety

When combined with traditional therapies, music seems to have the power to improve symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Multiple studies have shown that music helps people to feel less anxious, even though the effects are usually temporary. This seems to be especially true when people are facing severe circumstances, like a critical illness or surgery recovery.

Due to its dopamine-releasing properties, music can also positively affect depression symptoms.

Research shows that it can be helpful at all ages but particularly for children. A study from Bournemouth University in England discovered that music therapy helped reduce depression in children aged 8-16 more effectively than conventional treatment alone.

Once again, genre matters in this specific instance. Sad or nostalgic songs can actually increase depression symptoms. Classical music, jazz, and generally upbeat songs seem to be most effective.

Stimulates Creativity

the benefits of music for creativity

The benefits of music for creativity are fascinating and complex.

To start with, the stimulation of creativity has most definitely been associated with ‘happy music’ in studies. It also has the most effect on a particular type of creativity known as divergent thinking.

Divergent thinking involves coming up with multiple answers or ideas and “transforming information into unexpected forms.” It can be thought of as the more free-flowing and spontaneous type of creativity.

On the other hand, listening to music can actually impair the type of creativity needed for problem solving. This is in the realm of convergent thinking, which involves a logical process of deriving the single best answer to a problem.

From these results, it would appear that music can inspire you for creative processes like art and writing but may not be the best choice when you’re trying to solve a complex problem (or during homework time).

Good for Heart Health

Music is good for your physical heart as well as your emotional heart. In general, it has been found to lower blood pressure (systolic and diastolic) and heart rate.

However, the effects of music on blood pressure and heart rate depend on what style you’re listening to. For example, music with a fast tempo has been shown to increase blood pressure and heart rate.

But before you switch off your upbeat tunes, there’s more. The same study that reported these findings also documented that blood pressure and heart rate dropped after the music was over- to numbers below the baseline of the participants.

Fast tempo music can be good for your heart after all.

Music may also have a role to play in healing the heart. One study found that music therapy reduced stress and lowered heart rate in patients recovering from a heart attack. What’s more, patients in the music therapy group had a lower incidence of cardiac complications than those in the control group!

Lessens Fatigue & Boosts Exercise Performance

Turning on your favorite song can give you an instant energy boost- and there’s research to back this up.

Studies show that listening to music helps reduce mental fatigue (like when you’re completing a long, repetitive task). It also can help relieve feelings of physical fatigue as evidenced by a study that found it reduced radiation-related fatigue in cancer patients.

And the benefits of music go beyond simply making you feel less tired.

There’s a reason athletes and exercise lovers frequently have earbuds in their ears. Music enhances motivation before an athletic event, can help you workout longer, and stimulates you to compete or exercise at your peak. In short, it boosts athletic and exercise performance.

One study even found that listening to music during a 5K race improved running performance and inspired the athletes to run faster than normal.

Helps With Pain Management

Another fascinating side of music is that it can help to reduce pain. It’s not a treatment for pain in and of itself, but there is clear evidence that it helps decrease both acute and chronic pain (or possibly the perception of pain) and even helps lessen the need for pain medications like opioids.

Music seems to be especially beneficial when used post-surgery. Patients have reported feeling less pain with music therapy and also lower anxiety before and after operations.

Painful conditions that are difficult to treat can also benefit from the power of music.

As an example, one study explored music as a complementary therapy for fibromyalgia patients. Fibromyalgia is a very painful chronic condition that has limited treatment options. The results showed that music was able to reduce pain and improve functional mobility, which is very encouraging for people living with this condition.

Improves Sleep

Last but not least, the benefits of music include helping you sleep better- something many of us could use. Lack of sleep or poor sleep quality can lead to all kinds of health issues like brain fog, daytime fatigue, hormone disruption, mood disorders, and more.

Music is truly one of the oldest sleep remedies (think lullabies), though often overlooked in modern medicine.

Yet, studies have shown that the right kind of music can improve sleep for all ages. It helps to send both infants and young children to sleep. It also works for a wide range of adults, aiding both sleep quality and the ability to fall asleep.

In fact, some studies on music and sleep have had some incredible results.

One found that playing 45 minutes of specific music at bedtime improved sleep quality in older adults on the very first night. It also had a cumulative effect, resulting in better and better sleep each night they incorporated music.

Another study found that playing music when getting into bed helped older woman with insomnia go from taking 27-69 minutes to fall asleep to only 6-13 minutes. That’s quite a significant difference!

Experts still aren’t sure why music has such an effect on sleep. It’s likely a combination of lowering stress, calming the nervous system, and sending specific electrical signals to the brain.

Whatever the reason, the point of the matter is this: If you have trouble sleeping and feel like you’ve tried everything, music could be the missing link.

Top Recommendation: Wholetones Music Therapy for Better Sleep

When it comes to using music to sleep better, you need more than just a playlist of favorite songs. Experts recommend working with a certified music therapist if you are serious about using music for physical and mental health benefits, but there’s an even better (and less costly) way to have music send you to sleep.

Wholetones 2Sleep is a revolutionary product that is helping people of all ages sleep more soundly. It was created based on a critical discovery: It’s not just a certain type of music that promotes sleep- it’s also a certain frequency.

The founder of Wholetones, Michael Tyrell, was the one who discovered this and worked out which frequencies (measured in hertz) are most calming to the human brain. Notably, the best frequencies he found are not the same ones common in today’s music.

This means you can listen to the most calming music available and still not get the sleeps benefits of the right frequency.

Fortunately, Michael created his Wholetones product that uses traditional lullabies and other music set at sleep-promoting frequencies. Not only has it caused many people to write in with near-miraculous stories of sleeping better, it has also been clinically proven through a research study to help people fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and wake up more refreshed!

You can learn more about the amazing benefits of Wholetones 2 Sleep here. And don’t forget to explore the many other ways of experiencing the benefits of music for your health.

28 thoughts on “The Benefits of Music: Surprisingly Powerful for Mind & Body”

  1. As a musician for 60 years, and a teacher of music for almost 50 years, I have always known the benefits of music on the heart and the brain. It’s been proven now that children who study music in school classes do better in math and other subjects. Professional conductors of orchestras and bands generally live long, successful lives. Very few of these old guys ever get dementia. Music is good is so many ways for healthy lives.

    Reply
  2. Playing beautiful classical music, like Mozart, helps during the birth of a baby. It calms the mother and soothes the baby who is welcomed to the world with harmonious vibrations and sounds. It helps even more if the baby is played similar music during pregnancy and then hears the same sounds after it is born. Don Campbell’s Mozart Effect explains this.

    Reply
    • I hope they don’t mind. Thank you for sharing. AND thank you for your service to the USO and Veterans.

      Reply
  3. I love music – almost all kinds!
    When our children were home music was a constant. No seatbelt laws and they all took turns sitting on my lap and learning to lead the music and find the down beat as we listened to Mannheim Steamroller (our only agreed upon music style for all 8 of us) in our one-ton customized van . Wonderful memories come through music!

    Reply
  4. Yet another excellent article, Brian. The power of music is greatly underestimated.

    “If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.”

    ― Nikola Tesla

    Reply
    • Energy, vibration, and frequency. It seems energy springs forth into, and is embodied, by motion (vibration). The differing rates, or frequencies of vibration, registers their influences upon our senses.
      As a Christian and creationist, I see the unseen Father, embodied by the Son, and the life of the Son experienced through the Spirit, in Tesla’s statement.
      As a Serb myself, thanks for citing Nikola!

      Reply
      • Mitch I also relate to Tesla. I have experienced the secrets of the universe with music going beyond the spirit and deep within the soul taking me beyond this physical world. The visions created are in comprehensible to anyone who is unable to understand that which can not been seen, touched, or proven. I would be lost without music for it increases my energy that I may feel the frequencies within the vibrations that control my brain and thoughts. Music, a beautiful gift to all mankind and a blessing.

        Reply
  5. I enjoyed your music article very much as I immediately thought of my reaction to pan flute
    tones. My reaction was instant soothing calm and peace, even more so than classical music
    including sounds of nature.

    Reply
  6. Many nights my mother would play us to sleep by playing songs like Clair du lune on the piano. It was my favorite thing about childhood. I love jazz but was trained classically as a pianist. So both my favorites to listen to. When I as in college the University of Michigan has a program I was in called Musical Therapy. It was a double major in music and psychology and I worked with Austin children. It’s proven that studying music in young children increases their math abilities. It just makes me happy. Now my favorite morning music is Karen Drucker. Great way to start the day.

    Reply
  7. Micheal Tyrell .. wel Tyrell does come into one of my favorit albums . and that is Blade runner from Vangelis Papathanasio , also the film music . I get goos bumps by nearly every song. so I wil look up Tyrells whole notes. and thank you for the artikel. plus I get bumps from the mongolian fiddle , what I am trying to say is that music altho uniform is also very personal

    Reply
  8. I found this article informative and helpful. I have always enjoyed music from playing an instrument in grade school through college, singing in choirs and a choral society. When entertaining, easy listening is good and relaxing. I enjoy classical the most even driving if it isn’t very slow and quiet even like a dirge. For distance driving I enjoy lively, uplifting music, with or without lyrics. It really does affect your mood.

    Reply
  9. Music is definitely soothing and does help with severe chronic pain. I could not get through ome days without music. It does calm the nervous system. Except for the very worst days, the effect is less but still helpful. Adding sounds of birds and water helps a lot also. To think about: we were made with appreciation for music. There’s no real reason for birds to sing all the time other than when courting a mate. The water didn’t have to make a sound, nor the calming sound of a breeze. Makes sense music affects us, we were created to enjoy all the beautiful sounds of of the animals, birds, brooks and waterfalls.
    Thanks for your informative article.

    Reply
  10. Your article was very complete offering many
    good, helpful reasons to listen to music of all
    types.
    We enjoy music a great deal. I am a trained
    soloist and have been singing since I was 9 years of age.

    Reply
  11. My husband is 93 years old and has the greatest memory. He performed for many years in Europe and in Mexico and So. America as a classical pianist. Also played viola in the San Diego symphony. In his later years, he continued to play piano and violin as well as taught many students. His head is full of so many facts about music that it amazing anyone who talks to him. He now plays chamber music 2 times a week as well as performing with a Violinist in Senior homes. Our primary doctor has said he should donate his brain to science as he is so amazing.

    Reply
  12. I’m a Banjo player – amateur – and know how soothing listening to music is. Amazing Grace brings tears every time I hear it. Not Irish, Going to Ireland the first time I fell in live with some of the Irish songs reallly not Banjo music. Good article. I’ve heard of the whole note theory but have never heard it but will now look into it. These are articles that I like.

    Reply
  13. So, is there anything analogous to music which works as well for the deaf? (I don’t personally need to know, yet — just curious.)

    Reply
  14. Pythagoras (he of the famed hypotenuse theorem) is credited with originating the phrase “the music of the spheres” after meditating often on the solar system for a period of time. He said the planets sit outward from the sun in the same mathematical ratios as the notes in the octave.
    The physical world around us demonstrates similar dependence on these ratios (honeycombs, the spacing of leaves on plants) and even our bodies. Music stimulates harmony in our operating systems, nudging us toward toward homeostasis and supporting immune function.

    Reply
  15. Music is the antidote to our challenges at this time.
    A beautiful album is Otherworld by the group, Nessamusic.
    Yeah for music!!!

    Reply
  16. I taugt lenguajes with special music like violin music from Mozart and special music from Bach and otter special classic composers. People learnt twice as fast with the music as those who studied without thIs music.

    Reply
  17. Excellent article! I have enjoyed reading it.
    Many people like me take many hours listening bad news, reading, working and the end of the day we realize we didn’t listen any good music. Your article impulse me to change. Thank you for that.
    I’m from Lima, Peru. Sorry about my English. Even though I enjoyed most of you dad jokes.

    Reply
  18. Each morning when I rise I play music as I prepare for the day.
    This is usually classical but there are a wide range of styles that I enjoy
    The last thing I need is news of death and destruction but the mental and spiritual
    uplift of beautiful sound.

    Reply
  19. When my sis-in-law & I bring our little music programs to people in retirement homes it’s amazing how they perk up & join in on the sing-a-longs that were popular when they were young.

    Reply

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