21 Hidden Health Benefits Music Lovers Wish You Knew
The right notes can dampen appetite, relax blood vessels, and improve brain focus.
Favorite tunes keep you calm
Listening to their favorite music lowered anxiety among ICU patients by about one third, according to an Ohio State University study. Not just any tunes—it had to be familiar and comforting pieces, according to researchers. Don’t miss these 5 tunes almost guaranteed to give you a good night’s sleep.
Mood music makes you eat less
When Hardee’s gave one of its restaurants a fine-dining makeover—including soft lighting and jazz—diners ate about 18 percent less and reported enjoying their food more, according to a Cornell study in the journal Psychological Reports.
Inspiring instrumentals improve your mental focus
Uplifting concertos from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons can boost mental alertness, according to research from Northumbria University in the United Kingdom. When young adults were given a task that required intense concentration, they did better while listening to the bright “Spring” concerto versus the slower and more somber “Autumn” one.
Good music soothes and relaxes your blood vessels
Listening to music that brings you joy causes blood vessels to expand, increasing blood flow and improving cardiovascular health, a University of Maryland study found. The average upper-arm blood vessel diameter of people in the study increased 26 percent after listening to joyful music. A separate review of 26 studies covering almost 1,400 heart disease patients found that music reduced heart rate, blood pressure, and anxiety. Here’s how music can help you look and feel younger.
Group singing makes you happy
British researchers recently surveyed 375 people who sang in a choir, sang alone, or played on a sports team. All the activities contributed to greater emotional well-being, but people in choirs reported feeling happier than those who belted out tunes solo. Chorus members also rated their groups as more meaningful social experiences than athletes did with their sports teams. The physical act of synchrony—acting in time with others—or choral singing could promote feelings of unity. And if you love that: Say these 8 words to Siri and she will break out into song.
Playing an instrument may protect brain sharpness later in life
The more years middle-aged and older adults spent playing musical instruments as children, the faster their brains responded to speech sounds during an experiment, according to a study in the Journal of Neuroscience. A slower response could be indicative of how ably adults interpret speech. “Being a millisecond faster may not seem like much, but the brain is very sensitive to timing. A millisecond compounded over millions of neurons can make a real difference in the lives of older adults,” Michael Kilgard, a University of Texas at Dallas brain researcher who was not involved in the study, commented in a press release. This choir sings to people on the verge of dying, and it’s just beautiful.
Music classes make kids more cooperative
Preschoolers who sang and played instruments as a group were a whopping 30 times more likely to help others in subsequent tasks that measured their helpfulness and problem-solving abilities, compared with a control group of kids who listened to a story, British researchers reported in 2013. These are the movies with the most rocking soundtracks ever.
A mellow playlist may ease road rage
Feel an angry outburst coming on after a driver cuts you off, or as traffic starts to build? A quick switch to mellow music helped drivers calm down and make fewer mistakes during an experiment in a simulator, according to research published in 2013 in the journal Ergonomics. This is why you get goosebumps when you listen to your favorite song.
Music therapy may help teens cope with cancer
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Teenagers undergoing cancer treatment who joined a music therapy program in the hospital showed improved coping skills and more resilience when compared to a control group of patients who received audio books. The patients, who were undergoing stem cell transplants, worked with music therapists to write song lyrics and produce videos. “Making music videos allows these patients to project their feelings through another outlet,” Shawna Grissom, director of child life at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, told HealthDay. “It gives them a sense of control, a medium in which they can express themselves.”
Your work will get done faster
Listening to happy music at work can help you complete tasks more quickly, especially if you’re doing something repetitive such as checking e-mail or filing documents. One study showed that the accuracy and efficiency of surgeons improved when they worked with the music of their choice in the background. Cornell University researchers also found that upbeat tunes help workers cooperate and make group decisions that contribute to the good of the team. This is the reason some songs get stuck in your head.
Stress levels will go down
Music decreases levels of the stress hormone cortisol just as well as massage therapy does, according to a small 2010 study. Scientists randomly assigned anxious patients to listen to music either during massage therapy or while lying in a dim room. After three months, those who just listened to music experienced the same drop in anxiety as those who also got massages.
Music can help during surgery
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Listening to music before surgery has been shown to ease anxiety and limit the need for sedatives. After surgery, it helps reduce pain. An analysis of 73 studies published in the Lancet in 2015 confirmed that listening to music before, during, or after surgery improves anxiety and pain levels, which in turn means less pain medication.
Music makes you more creative
People come up with more creative solutions when they listen to happy, upbeat music than when they sit in silence, according to researchers from the Netherlands and Australia. It may be because music improves your brain’s flexibility or because it relaxes you enough for the creative juices to flow. But don’t play the music too loudly; research also has found that moderate volume provides the creativity sweet spot. Learn why if music gives you chills, you just may be an emotional genius.
It gets dopamine flowing
When you listen to music, your brain releases dopamine, the same neurotransmitter that’s released when you eat chocolate, have sex, or use cocaine. It’s also associated with being in love. One small study found that just the anticipation of knowing the best part of a song is coming can get the dopamine flowing. Also, try these simple ways to sneak meditation into your everyday routine.
It makes you more comfortable
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Feel like quitting a workout? Whether you’re running, biking, or walking, you’ll go farther if you pump up the jams, studies have found. Music distracts you from your discomfort and motivates you to stay with the beat. The effect is so profound that the author of a 2012 review examining the psychological effects of music on exercise called music “a type of legal performance-enhancing drug.”
Music gives you power
That rush of energy you feel when you put on your best power song is real. College-age men who were studied doing squats while listening to a favorite song took off more explosively and performed reps at greater speeds than those doing them in silence, one study found. People also sprint faster and hold heavy weights longer when listening to music. Here are 5 energizing playlists to fuel your exercise.
It aids sleep
Lullabies aren’t just for babies. Listening to music before bed can help you fall asleep faster, wake up less often during the night, and feel more rested in the morning, according to the National Sleep Foundation. In one study conducted in Taiwan, seniors with sleep problems who listened to 45 minutes of soft, slow music before bed reported a 35 percent improvement in the duration of their shut-eye and less dysfunction throughout the day. Here are 11 of the best lullabies to sing to your baby—with a modern twist.
Music has been used to heal for centuries, and now we’re learning why it works. The latest meta-analysis of 400 studies finds that listening to music promotes the body’s production of an antibody (called immunoglobulin A) that attacks viruses and bacteria, as well as natural “killer cells,” which kill invading viruses and cancerous cells.
It makes time fly by
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Time does fly when you’re listening to music: Scientists have shown repeatedly that people judge a period of waiting as shorter when music is playing. Retailers use that to their advantage, playing music so you stay longer and spend more. For instance, more drinks and food are sold in bars and restaurants when music (especially slow music) is played. And grocery sales increase by 38 percent when the background music is slow.
A nice melody helps reduce pain
In one study, adults who focused on childhood melodies while receiving safe electric shocks decreased their pain by 17 percent overall. Other studies show that music may reduce pain for fibromyalgia and cancer patients. It works on kids, too: Children who listened to soothing and/or upbeat music while having an IV inserted reported less pain and distress compared with those who had the procedure in silence, according to a study in JAMA Pediatrics.
It helps Alzheimer’s patients remember
Maybe you’ve heard about Alzheimer’s patients coming alive when they hear a song from their past. Studies show that music helps them retrieve memories, communicate more effectively, and remember who they are. Singing is particularly powerful; George Mason University researchers demonstrated that Alzheimer’s patients who regularly belt out their favorites may boost their cognitive function over time. Next, check out the unexpected health benefits you can get from cleaning.