You’re probably already aware of the uplifting effects of music. If you’ve ever heard a song playing in the background at a store and found yourself suddenly smiling (or even singing along), you know the power of music to change your mood. Or perhaps you’ve been driving in heavy rush hour traffic when a favorite song came on the radio, and you unexpectedly felt a little better. Few people would be surprised by this. But did you know that the effects of music go well beyond merely boosting your mood? Music has been linked to better physical and mental health, higher income, and yes, even more satisfaction in your relationships. In a study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology, researchers demonstrated the relationship between music, increased happiness, and better health. So, yes, music does indeed have the power to change your life, in many ways. Let’s take a brief look at a few of those ways.
Mind, Body, Heart, and Soul
Music has a powerful psychological impact on our lives. It isn’t so much as luxury, as it is a necessity to our health and well-being. We should probably listen to more music than we do already, since it engages our brains on so many different levels. It can lift our spirits, and nourish our soul. But don’t take my word for it, there’s plenty of scientific evidence to back me up.
Music works in a number of different ways to enhance your life, for example:
- Enjoying music releases dopamine and endorphins, which are “reward” chemicals that lead to feelings of happiness, optimism, and pleasure.
- Listening to and playing music lowers the production of the stress hormone, cortisol, which helps you manage stress and even alleviate pain. High levels of cortisol have also been known to trigger overeating and weight gain.
- Musical training and practice can protect against the onset of dementia or cognitive decline later in life.
- There is documented proof that music is an effective treatment for many neurological conditions, including stroke, Parkinson’s disease, and even Alzheimer’s.
- Music raises oxytocin levels in our brains, which enhances and deepens our social connections.
- Adding music to physical activity increases endurance and lowers your perception of effort while distracting you from feeling fatigue.
- Music can be useful when you feel lonely, giving you the sensation of a live companion in the room with you.
The “Secret” of a Long and Happy Life
Often you’ll hear someone say that they wish they had learned how to play piano when they were young. Perhaps you’ve said it yourself. The truth is you’re never too old to learn a musical instrument. If you start later in life, you might never make it to Carnegie Hall, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a lot of fun learning how to make music. Even a few years of musical training can build brain power and even help you live a longer, more fulfilled life.
The long-term cognitive benefits of participating in music have been demonstrated in several studies, enabling more “mature” adults to stay mentally sharp. Getting involved in music, regardless of whether it’s classical, pop, jazz, or something else, can give your brain an important source of stimulation. It’s never too late to get involved in music, and the benefits are well worth the effort.
When you are happy, it radiates out to everyone around you. With more music in your life, you can cultivate a relaxed inner peace that can transform how you look at the world. Also, whether you realize it or not, everyone was born a creative being, and music can be the perfect way to express yourself.
Sing Me a Happy Song
While singing in the shower or alone in the car can increase your sense of well-being, group singing can not only improve physical and mental health, it can also promote social bonding. Community choral groups for example build broader social networks, which can be valuable in an increasingly alienating world. If most of your social interactions are conducted on social media or over the phone, belonging to a choir can be a valuable social outlet. Social connections are vital to maintaining overall health and well-being. You might try local chorales, amateur theater productions, or even give karaoke a shot.
Music making in general is good exercise for the brain, and singing has additional benefits for the body. Singing is particularly beneficial for improving breathing, posture, and muscle tension. And, as with other forms of musical expression, participating in singing and be effective in reducing pain, relieving stress, and improving a healthy immune system. People have reported feeling more positive after actively singing than passively listening to music. Finally, even though you might not think so, everyone can sing. This makes it one of the most accessible forms of musical performance.
Whether you decide to take up an instrument (or get one out of the closet), join a choir, or just turn up the music more often, the benefits can be amazing. It’s one of the few pleasures in life that is calorie free, generally inexpensive, and available anywhere. And yes, it can truly change your life!
Carolyn is a lifelong learner, musician, author, world traveler, truth enthusiast, life optimizer, and all around bon vivant. Working for 32 years at the Southern California Gas Company, she retired early at 55 to pursue projects that brought her joy and personal fulfillment. She is a freelance author, a contract instructional designer, and has published two books while currently working on a third. She writes articles and blog posts on topics from politics to weight loss. She is a patron of the arts, and finds great joy in playing an instrument, singing, and/or listening to music every single day.