Benefits of Music on Body, Mind, Relationships & More (2022)

Benefits of Music on Body, Mind, Relationships & More (1)Share on Pinterest

In 2009, archaeologists excavating a cave in southern Germany uncovered a flute carved from a vulture’s wing bone. The delicate artifact is the oldest known musical instrument on earth — indicating that people have been making music for over 40,000 years.

Although we can’t be sure exactly when human beings began listening to music, scientists do know something about why we do. Listening to music benefits us individually and collectively. Here’s what research tells us about the power of music to improve our physical, mental, and emotional health.

Researchers think one of the most important functions of music is to create a feeling of cohesion or social connectedness.

Evolutionary scientists say human beings may have developed a dependence on music as a communication tool because our ancestors descended from arboreal species — tree-dwellers who called to one another across the canopy.

Music remains a powerful way of uniting people:

  • national anthems connect crowds at sporting events
  • protest songs stir a sense of shared purpose during marches
  • hymns build group identity in houses of worship
  • love songs help prospective partners bond during courtship
  • lullabies enable parents and infants to develop secure attachments

How, then, does music benefit us as individuals?

Music’s effects on the mind

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It can lead to better learning

Doctors at Johns Hopkins recommend that you listen to music to stimulate your brain. Scientists know that listening to music engages your brain — they can see the active areas light up in MRI scans.

Researchers now know that just the promise of listening to music can make you want to learn more. In one 2019 study, people were more motivated to learn when they expected to listen to a song as their reward.

Listening has limits

A note of caution: You may want to withhold the earbuds for some students. Researchers who tested students with lower working memory capacity found that listening to music — especially songs with lyrics — sometimes had a negative effect on learning.

It can improve memory

Music also has a positive effect on your ability to memorize.

In one study, researchers gave people tasks that required them to read and then recall short lists of words. Those who were listening to classical music outperformed those who worked in silence or with white noise.

The same study tracked how fast people could perform simple processing tasks — matching numbers to geometrical shapes — and a similar benefit showed up. Mozart helped people complete the task faster and more accurately.

Mayo Clinic points out that while music doesn’t reverse the memory loss experienced by people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, music has been found to slow cognitive decline, helping people with mild or moderate dementia remember episodes from their lives.

Music memory is one of the brain functions most resistant to dementia. That’s why some caregivers have had success using music to calm dementia patients and build trusting connections with them.

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It can help treat mental illness

Music literally changes the brain. Neurological researchers have found that listening to music triggers the release of several neurochemicals that play a role in brain function and mental health:

  • dopamine, a chemical associated with pleasure and “reward” centers
  • stress hormones like cortisol
  • serotonin and other hormones related to immunity
  • oxytocin, a chemical that fosters the ability to connect to others

Although more research needs to be done to understand precisely how music can be used therapeutically to treat mental illness, some studies suggest that music therapy can improve the quality of life and social connectedness for people with schizophrenia.

A number of researchers have interviewed groups about why they listen to music. Study participants vary widely in terms of age, gender, and background, but they report strikingly similar reasons.

One of the most common uses of music? It helps people regulate their emotions, researchers found. It has the power to change moods and help people process their feelings.

It can help lower anxiety

There’s lots of evidence that listening to music can help calm you in situations where you might feel anxious.

Studies have shown that people in rehab after a stroke are more relaxed once they’ve listened to music for an hour.

Similar studies indicate that music blended with nature sounds help people feel less anxious. Even people facing critical illness feel less anxiety after music therapy.

There’s conflicting evidence about whether listening to music has an effect on your body’s physiological stress response, however. One study indicated that the body releases less cortisol, a stress hormone, when people listen to music. This same study referenced previous research stating that music had little measurable effect on cortisol levels.

One recent study that measured several indicators of stress (not just cortisol) concluded that while listening to music before a stressful event doesn’t reduce anxiety, listening to relaxing music after a stressful event can help your nervous system recover faster.

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It helps the symptoms of depression

A 2017 research review concluded that listening to music, particularly classical combined with jazz, had a positive effect on depression symptoms, especially when there were several listening sessions conducted by board certified music therapists.

Not into jazz or the classics? You may want to try a group percussion session instead. The same research review found that drum circles also had above-average benefits for people dealing with depression.

Musical genre matters for depression

One important note: Studies have found that nostalgic sad tunes can actually increase symptoms of depression, especially if you tend to ruminate or withdraw socially. Not surprising, perhaps, but important to know if you want to use music to counteract the blues.

It can help your heart health

Music can make you want to move — and the benefits of dancing are well documented. Scientists also know that listening to music can alter your breath rate, your heart rate, and your blood pressure, depending on the music’s intensity and tempo.

It decreases fatigue

Anyone who has ever rolled down car windows and turned up the radio knows that music can be energizing. There’s solid science behind that lived experience.

In 2015, researchers at Shanghai University found that relaxing music helped reduce fatigue and maintain muscle endurance when people were engaged in a repetitive task.

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Music therapy sessions also lessened fatigue in people receiving cancer treatments and raised the fatigue threshold for people engaged in demanding neuromuscular training, which leads us to the next big benefit.

It boosts exercise performance

Exercise enthusiasts have long known that music enhances their physical performance.

A 2020 research review confirms that working out with music improves your mood, helps your body exercise more efficiently, and cuts down on your awareness of exertion. Working out with music also leads to longer workouts.

In clinical settings, athletes who listened to high-intensity, fast music during warmups were motivated to perform better competitively.

You don’t have to be a world-class competitor to benefit: Research shows that syncing your workout to music can allow you to reach peak performance using less oxygen than if you did the same workout without the beat. Music acts as a metronome in your body, researchers said.

It can help manage pain

Specially trained music therapists use music to help alleviate pain in inpatient and outpatient settings. A 2016 meta-analysis of over 90 studies reported that music helps people manage both acute and chronic pain better than medication alone.

About music therapy

The American Music Therapy Association describes music therapy as the use of music in hospitals, outpatient clinics, rehab clinics, nursing homes, schools, correctional facilities, and substance use programs to help meet the medical, physical, emotional, and cognitive needs of patients. To find a board- certified music therapist in your area, check this registry.

The takeaway

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Music exerts a powerful influence on human beings. It can boost memory, build task endurance, lighten your mood, reduce anxiety and depression, stave off fatigue, improve your response to pain, and help you work out more effectively.

Working with a music therapist is one effective way to take advantage of the many benefits music can have on your body, mind, and overall health.

FAQs

What does music do to the mind and body? ›

It provides a total brain workout. Research has shown that listening to music can reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and pain as well as improve sleep quality, mood, mental alertness, and memory.

What are 5 benefits of music? ›

Scientists Find 15 Amazing Benefits Of Listening To Music
  • Music Makes You Happier. ...
  • Music Enhances Running Performance. ...
  • Music Lowers Stress and Improves Health. ...
  • Music Helps You Sleep Better. ...
  • Music Reduces Depression. ...
  • Music Helps You Eat Less. ...
  • Music Elevates Your Mood While Driving. ...
  • Music Strengthens Learning and Memory.

Why music is good for mental health? ›

Research shows that music can have a beneficial effect on brain chemicals such as dopamine, which is linked to feelings of pleasure, and oxytocin, the so-called “love hormone.” And there is moderate evidence that music can help lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

What music benefits the brain? ›

The researchers believe the type of music is important and recommend relaxing music, such as classical or smooth jazz. Other studies have found that listening to enjoyable music can improve memory and learning. This may be because music's repetitive nature helps our brains to form patterns that improve our memories.

Why is music so powerful? ›

Music is all around us intersecting our lives, regulating our moods and bringing good vibes to those who are listening. It raises your mood, bringing excitement, or calming you down. It allows us to feel all the emotions that we experience in our lives.

Can music heal the body? ›

It's been shown to provide positive results in reducing pain, anxiety, stress, and even the need for restraints in agitated patients. In the hospital setting, music therapy can be an effective adjunct to conventional medicine that the nurse offers patients supporting their healing.

What are the 10 benefits of music? ›

The team from Spiritual Care and Support at NorthShore, highlights some of the benefits music has on health and well-being:
  • It's heart healthy. ...
  • It elevates mood. ...
  • It reduces stress. ...
  • It relieves symptoms of depression. ...
  • It stimulates memories. ...
  • It manages pain. ...
  • It eases pain. ...
  • It helps people eat less.
31 Dec 2020

What are the 20 uses of music? ›

The Many Uses of Music
  • Therapeutic Use. Music can be used as a form of therapy for listeners. ...
  • Entertainment. Music listened to with the aim of being entertained can be heard on different platforms such as restaurants or in events. ...
  • Worship. ...
  • Celebrations. ...
  • Work Backdrop. ...
  • Workouts. ...
  • Communication. ...
  • Mood Setting.
16 Jul 2019

What is the power of music? ›

Research findings have demonstrated that music supports our physical, mental and emotional health. It can help in regulating our emotions, improving our mood, and enhancing productivity and concentration, and it can even help us sleep better.

What does music do to the soul? ›

Research has shown that music can enhance intelligence, improve mental focus, boost the immune system, strengthen self-esteem, and increase confidence. Music reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, improves memory and aids toward inducing a better and deeper sleep. Music literally lifts your spirits.

How does music make you feel? ›

Our favorite melodies release dopamine, known as the feel-good hormone, which activates our brain's pleasure and reward system. Music can have a positive, immediate impact on our mental state; fast tempos can psychologically and physiologically arouse us, helping energize us for the day.

What is the power of music? ›

Research findings have demonstrated that music supports our physical, mental and emotional health. It can help in regulating our emotions, improving our mood, and enhancing productivity and concentration, and it can even help us sleep better.

Why does music affect me so much? ›

It's all in the rewards.

Especially when it's music we love, the brain releases dopamine while listening. Dopamine is a chemical messenger that plays a role in how we feel pleasure. It also helps us to think and plan, helping us strive, focus, and find things interesting.

Videos

1. "Music Is Frequency Programming" 440HZ
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2. Effects of Alcohol on the Brain, Animation, Professional version.
(Alila Medical Media)
3. Can Psychedelics Cure? | Full Documentary | NOVA | PBS
(NOVA PBS Official)
4. The science of attraction - Dawn Maslar
(TED-Ed)
5. Wendy Suzuki: The brain-changing benefits of exercise | TED
(TED)
6. The difference between healthy and unhealthy love | Katie Hood
(TED)

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