You may have heard the old saying “laughter is the best medicine.” But a new trend in wellness is suggesting something else may be good for what ails us: music.
Have you ever felt stressed or a bit blue and turned to your favorite song or playlist to feel better? This could be for good reason! As it turns out, music has unique powers for giving your mood and memory a healthy boost. It’s also been shown to activate the positive areas of our brains—more than any other stimulus, in fact!
And this idea of using music therapy benefits for its healing powers is really catching on! It’s quickly having impacts on the music industry, who is starting to turn “wellness music” into a newly formed genre. You can now find music on services like Spotify®, Apple Music® and YouTube geared toward helping you meditate, focus, reduce your stress, improve your sleep and more. The power of music is also being researched for its healing qualities in treating conditions such as pain, anxiety or depression.
Health benefits of music
When it comes to our bodies and minds, listening to music can have profound effects. It can serve as a pick-me-up, have soothing qualities or inspire you to power through a workout. It can also help you call up memories, which boosts brain function, reducing your stress levels. Here are some other things music can help with:
- Managing your pain. Music therapy aids in lowering stress levels, also helpful for managing pain. When listening to music, your brain shifts focus away from pain signals. The perceived intensity of pain then becomes lower. This is useful in geriatric care, intensive care or palliative medicine. Music has even been used to calm patients before surgery!
- Lifting your mood. Music is processed in the part of your brain called the amygdala, which is directly involved in mood and emotions. Hearing music creates a rise in your brain’s production of the hormone dopamine. Increased dopamine levels help relieve feelings of anxiety and depression.
- Keeping your heart healthy. Research has shown when music is being played, your blood flows more easily. This can keep your heart pumping well. This can also calm your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, decrease your cortisol (stress hormone) levels, and increase serotonin and endorphin levels in your blood.
- Preventing overeating. Playing soft music in the background while you’re eating can help you slow down. As a result, you’ll wind up eating less during your meal. (Research shows dimming the lights helps, too, but that’s a topic for another day!)
Taking a break from digital screens
Our world is becoming more and more digital. If you’re like the average person, you could be racking up six hours per day or more in front of computers, tvs and phones. And all that extra screen time can take a toll on your health and well-being.
But filling up your space with ambient sound, such as music or soundscapes, can be really good for you. Shifting your focus to audio and practicing some deep listening can give your mind a welcome break. When you take a break from too much visual stimulation, you’ll see your stress levels come down as your body and mind relax. Playing music in the background while you work can help with your focus, too, and can help your creative juices flow!
Music as a sanctuary
Using music and other sounds as a way to relax is definitely gaining in popularity. If you haven’t seen one yet, you may soon start to see “listening centers” or even “listening bars” pop up in your area. These give you a chance to share music with others and practice listening as part of a community. You can dig into large curated vinyl libraries, or talk about cool music apps or podcasts you’ve found.
You may even start to see some homes come equipped with their own listening rooms. These can double as meditation spaces and could even begin to take the place of home theatres.
Protection from noise pollution
Do you live in a crowded city? Taking in loud noises on a regular basis can have big effects on the way you feel. They can add to your stress and even contribute to feelings of anxiety. For city dwellers, music therapy can help in battling noise pollution. By creating soft sounds in your space through music or nature sounds, you can “drown out” outside noises like cars, trains or sirens. Dampening these sounds can help you improve your sleeping patterns, mood and even blood pressure.
For bigger escapes from the hustle and bustle, you might even consider a vacation planned around listening experiences. Some hotels and resorts are now building music rooms and even setting up spaces for impromptu concerts. And spas are incorporating music into things like facials or massages, for added relaxation.
To really immerse yourself in nature, you could venture into the jungle or forest for a wilderness excursion. Some new guided trips are based around listening to nature’s “music” like raindrops, birds, the sound of waves or the pitter patter of animals.
Music therapy in the travel setting is about helping you embrace taking in the sounds just as much as, or instead of, taking in the sights!
To enjoy the benefits of music therapy, try these simple ways to get started:
- Create playlists for different purposes. Whether you need help with motivation or relaxation, you can put together a playlist of songs to inspire you.
- Play an instrument. Creating music by playing an instrument or singing is great for your creativity levels, brain function and mental focus. You don’t need to be an expert to reap some benefits either, so playing a few bars on the piano or strumming a guitar can help! You can use online tutorials or download an app on your phone to get better.
- Share music with others. Building a sense of community around music is a good way to engage with it. You can share music with friends to start, or build public playlists using streaming services you enjoy. And try checking out music cafes or listening rooms where you live!
The future sounds bright!
Listening to music is chock full of ways to help you feel better. Whether you’re looking to learn about new music, or tap into its healing qualities, music therapy is a wellness trend worth looking into!
This article is for informational purposes only, and is not meant as medical advice.