If you’re seeking for a simple approach to alter your mood, play music.
Music has been found in studies to improve mood and ward off depression. Additionally, it can enhance blood flow in a manner similar to statins, reduce stress-related chemicals such as cortisol, and alleviate pain. Listening to music prior to surgery may even boost post-operative outcomes.
How is music capable of doing so much good? According to Kim Innes, an epidemiology professor at West Virginia University’s School of Public Health, music appears to “selectively activate” neurochemical systems and brain structures associated with positive mood, emotion regulation, attention, and memory in ways that promote beneficial changes.
Innes coauthored a 2016 study in which he discovered that listening to music can improve mood and well-being, as well as stress-related metrics, in older persons experiencing cognitive impairment. Her study compared the benefits of music to those of meditation, a discipline that has gained popularity in recent years due to its mental-health benefits. Both behaviours, she discovered, were associated with considerable improvements in mood and sleep quality. “Both meditation and listening to music have the potential to significantly improve one’s general health and well-being,” Innes says. If the concept of listening to music appears to be significantly more.
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“Silence can be preferable than random listening,” says Joanne Loewy, an associate professor and director of Mount Sinai Beth Israel’s Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine. “Some of our results indicate that simply listening to any music can elicit an anxious response.” (If you need instances of how music can fan the flames of worry rather than quell them, just switch on the spooky soundtracks from films like Halloween or The Shining.)
Along with causing tension, Loewy asserts that the improper music can foster rumination and other detrimental mental states. Music, according to a 2015 study from Finland, can increase negative emotions such as anger, violence, or grief in much the same way that it can counterbalance these emotions. Why? The beat and other qualities of the songs we choose can influence our heart rates and the activity of our brain’s neural networks, argues Daniel Levitin, a psychology professor at McGill University in Canada who studies the cognitive neuroscience of music.
Levitin observes that tracks with a sluggish tempo, gradual chord progressions, and drawn-out notes tend to be calming, whereas chaotic and upbeat music has the opposite effect. However, this is all subjective. Levitin says he’s met people who claim AC/DC is their go-to music for relaxation. “These were people who were used to listening to Swedish speed metal, so AC/DC was calming to them,” he explains. “No single piece of music will have the same effect on everyone.”
Additionally, he asserts that the brain lacks a singular “music centre.” “One of the most startling findings is that music activates practically every part of the brain that we have mapped thus far.” This alludes to music’s universality and capacity to move us.
If you’re hoping to utilise music to relieve stress, boost your energy, or otherwise alter your mental or emotional state, Levitin suggests that you probably already have a repertoire of songs that you know will have the desired impact. Dive right in. Simply set aside distractions. “We delude ourselves into believing we can perform two things at the same time,” he explains. While listening to motivating music can motivate you to workout harder or longer, listening to quiet music will not help you unwind if you’re scrolling through your news or social media feeds, he says.
Consider developing a deeper relationship between music and health by exploring the discipline of music therapy, which focuses on the use of music to improve patient outcomes. “Music therapy begins with the notion that we, as therapists, are collaborating with a person who is seeking to feel more complete or optimistic—or to discover aspects of themselves they are unaware of—through music,” explains Alan Turry, managing director of New York University’s Nordoff-Robbins Center for Music Therapy.
Music therapy comes in a variety of formats. One is “guided imagery in music,” Turry explains, in which a skilled therapist assists a patient in identifying her strengths and weaknesses through the use of music selected by the patient. “With music, a sense of [therapist-patient] attunement can occur,” he explains. “Sharing music enables the patient to feel as though the therapist ‘gets me.'”
Other types of music therapy may include singing or instrument playing. “How one of us creates music reveals something about ourselves that a therapist can deal with,” he explains. “Someone may play a drum at a single pace or dynamic, which may reflect their inability to be adaptable in other parts of their life.”
“Music allows us to bypass our reasoning side and reconnect with our emotional selves,” Turry explains. “If people are having a hard time, music almost always has a way to help.”