What would the soundtrack of your life sound like?
Music is an important part of our daily lives, whether we are aware of it or not. A lot of times it blends into the background like when we are at the grocery store, the gym or at a doctor’s office. What you may not know is that music has a profound impact on us and our brains.
As human beings we are hard-wired to enjoy music. We’ve all experienced how music can change our mood, give us a boost in motivation and even help our concentration. Now, through great advances in neuroscience, researchers have been able to quantitatively measure how music actually affects our brain.
The discoveries are exciting and great news for all of us music lovers. Music activates every known part of our brain and makes us happier, smarter and more productive. While listening to music is great, playing music is even better.
How can music have such a beneficial effect on our brain? It activates our brain’s reward system – the part of the brain that sends us signals whether something is valuable and important or if it is necessary for survival. When we listen to music we love, our brain releases the feel good hormone dopamine, which gives us a natural high just like we get from an orgasm, a runner’s high or eating chocolate. Music also stimulates the release of the love hormone oxytocin, which helps us to bond with others and create a sense of trustworthiness.
Let’s have a closer look at some of the ways music can enhance our brain. Here are our TOP 10 reasons to listen to music.
#1 Music Improves Our Mood
While most of us aren’t professional musicians, simply listening to music can already significantly improve our mood. If we listen to music we enjoy, we are happier, more productive and more creative. Playing and listening to music lowers our levels of the stress hormone cortisol and can make us feel more powerful, hopeful and in control of our life. While we are referring to upbeat music here, listening to sad music has its benefits, too, as it can be very cathartic.
#2 Music Boosts Our Memory
We’ve all been there… We can’t remember where we put our keys or can’t find our glasses, when they are right on our nose. While memory loss may be a sign of aging, it doesn’t have to affect our life. It is possible to boost our memory by listening to our favorite music. How you wonder? Experts found out that music stimulates many areas of the brain, including the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that is responsible for memory. If you play familiar music, the emotions and feelings associated with the music can bring your hippocampus back to life.
#3 Music Reduces Stress
Do you have an important event coming up that stresses you out just thinking about it? Whatever makes you feel anxious, whether that’s a big presentation at work or a life-changing doctor’s appointment, instead of reaching for anti-anxiety pills, listen to side effect-free music and your stresses will melt away. Several studies show that people who listen to music versus taking a traditional anti-anxiety drug, have lower levels of cortisol in their systems and can fight stress and anxiety much better.
#4 Music Repairs Brain Damage
If you know someone who had a stroke or any other brain-related condition, you’ll be thrilled to hear that music can help restore your brain to its former brilliance. It has been found that music is especially helpful for patients with brain injury that is left-sided and have symptoms such as the inability to speak. Music has shown to be helpful in repairing damage to the part of the brain that is associated with language because it helps the mind to correlate the tunes with verbalism again.
#5 Musicians Have Better Brains
It totally makes sense… If we want to learn more about the effects of music on the brain, looking at professional musicians provides the best evidence. Brain scans show that a musician’s brain is significantly different from everybody else’s. A musician’s brain is more symmetrical and the areas of the brain that are responsible for spatial coordination, motor control and auditory processing are larger. Musicians also have a larger corpus callous, which is the band of nerve fibers that allows the two brain hemispheres to communicate with each other. While we don’t suggest that everybody starts training to be a musician right now, we do recommend that you incorporate more music into your life.
#6 Music Helps Us Learn
Research suggests that listening to background music before tackling a big task increases cognitive functions like attention and memory by increasing mood and arousal. It has been found that instrumental music is much more beneficial than music with vocals as the vocals can be highly distracting and lower our ability to focus and remember. The findings show that music helps to improve language skills, increase brain connectivity and spatial intelligence and even brings about a small increase in IQ scores.
#7 Music Helps Us Exercise
Research has been looking into the effects of music during exercise for years and it has been found that you can exercise better, stronger and longer while you listen to music than when you work out in silence. The reason is that music can drown out our brain’s cry of fatigue. When our body realizes that we are tired and wants to stop working out, it sends signals to the brain to stop exercising. But when we listen to music, the music competes for our brain’s attention and can override those signals of fatigue. Not only can we push ourselves to workout harder and longer when we listen to music, it can actually be helpful to use our energy more efficiently.
#8 Ambient Music Improves Creativity
We all like to pump up our music when we are powering through a workout, but when it comes to working creatively, you may want to consider a more moderate noise level. Apparently ambient music is the sweet spot to get your creative juices going because it increases processing difficulty, which promotes abstract thinking. However, if the noise level is too high, our creativity is compromised, because we struggle to efficiently process information.
#9 Music Predicts Our Personality
You may want to take this one with a grain of salt, but we found it very interesting and definitely wanted to tell you about it. A recent study showed that by looking at your top ten favorite songs, you can fairly reliably predict your personality traits. Some of the connections that have been found were that rap fans are very outgoing and have high self-esteem, opera fans are gentle, creative and have been found to have high self-esteem, dance fans are outgoing and creative, blues fans are at ease, outgoing, creative and gentle, country and western fans are outgoing and hardworking and soul fans have high self-esteem and are gentle, outgoing and at ease. While it is very hard to generalize based on a small, single study, there are some clear overlaps when we look at the science of extroverts and introverts.
#10 Music Improves Quality of Life
Even if you listen or play music just for fun, you will gain all the benefits for your brain. But when you are in need for professional health care, music therapy can be a huge help. Music can be used therapeutically to address your emotional, mental, physical and social needs. Research shows that music can bring about measurable changes in certain neurotransmitters that have been proven to be helpful for treating people with emotional trauma, autism, chronic pain, Alzheimer’s and a variety of other mental disorders including depression.
Music is one of the most powerful tools we have. It gives us the chance to think and feel in ways we may not naturally be inclined to. Music has the power to expand our cognitive function and can move and inspire us. Music has the power to connect us to other people and it even has the power to heal. Now that you know how powerful music is, put on some music that you enjoy and reduce everyday stress, boost creativity and memory and even give your immune system a boost.
If you are looking for an amazing pair of headphones to listen to your music on the go, we highly recommend SkullCandy Crusher Wireless Headphones.
FILL YOUR LIFE WITH MUSIC
Joschi & Monika