Silence is golden but everyone needs a soundtrack to power their lives! There are many mindfulness practices to stimulate inner awareness, increase health, and elevate our mood but there’s is nothing quite like cranking up the tunes and throwing down with friends. If you aren’t quite ready for a full on dance party, then listening to Mozart with your full being while sipping tea, or singing a pop-song out loud while you drive across town will suffice. Below you will learn the scientific research that shows us how music has a profound physiological effect on our bodies while improving concentration, relieving stress, acting as an antidepressant and more.
“Music’s beneficial effects on mental health have been known for thousands of years. Ancient philosophers from Plato to Confucius and the kings of Israel sang the praises of music and used it to help soothe stress. Military bands use music to build confidence and courage. Sporting events provide music to rouse enthusiasm. Schoolchildren use music to memorize their ABCs. Shopping malls play music to entice consumers and keep them in the store. Dentists play music to help calm nervous patients.”
– Mental Health, Naturally: The Family Guide to Holistic Care for a Healthy Mind and Body
Take a moment and listen to Billie Holiday’s Lady Sings the Blues and you will be transported to another time. Sing along with her and you may ooze with the feelings as if they are your own. Crank up Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and you will be filled with emotions you may have never known existed. This capacity to feel is core to having compassion, yet music also has a profound effect on cognitive processes and learning also.
“Auditory biology is not frozen in time. It’s a moving target. And music education really does seem to enhance communication by strengthening language skills.”
– Nina Kraus, the Hugh Knowles Professor of Communication Sciences, Neurobiology & Physiology, and Otolaryngology at Northwestern University as well as the principal investigator at the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory
Musical entrainment creates connection both internally and externally which can be seen when watching a whole crowd dance to a live band, or the people around you sobbing at an opera. Science explains this as an aspect of mirror neurons, which are a form of mimicking that can happen emotionally and physically. Maybe a song will give you chills, make you cry, cause you to spontaneously start jamming on an air guitar, or make you dance uncontrollably.
Most of us inherently know this stuff but it is still worth noting when science is able to validate it through research. In a study called The Neuroscience of Music, published by the Department of Psychology at McGill University in Montreal, researchers found preliminary scientific evidence supporting claims that music influences health through neurochemical changes in four domains: reward, motivation and pleasure; stress and arousal; immunity; and social affiliation.
“The potential therapeutic effects of music listening have been largely attributed to its ability to reduce stress and modulate arousal levels. Listening to ‘relaxing music’ (generally considered to have slow tempo, low pitch, and no lyrics) has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety in healthy subjects, patients undergoing invasive medical procedures (e.g., surgery, colonoscopy, dental procedures, pediatric patients undergoing medical procedures, and patients with coronary heart disease.”
– The Neurochemistry of Music
Music is a Universal Language
It is no surprise that music has been used in ritual and ceremony since the beginning of time. Women share playlists for the delivery room to welcome new life. You can even higher a hospice harpist to help the transition from a terminal disease. Music education has also been shown to help children’s developing brains. So it is only natural to place it in a category for mindfulness, meditation, and healing.
“Music is a language of energy, a “vibe” of emotions and joy. It speaks to our core desires and feelings. It speaks to our core desires and feelings. It spans language barriers and political borders, making it a powerful means through which humans can connect.”
– Patrick Groneman
Music is also a reflection of culture. In today’s world we are experiencing an unprecedented convergence of ideas through the internet and technology. We are re-mixing historical themes, embellishing forgotten ideas and combining belief systems across time and societies. Internet is fostering a modern version of digital, informational, cultural jazz, a media fusion.
For instance, electronic dance music has captured wide acclaim as DJs and producers improvise with musical tools that have the ability to drop samples, mix, change tempo and induce ecstatic states of consciousness. This type of music has become central to the emerging transformational, or visionary culture that is influencing our world view through integrating art, spirituality and technology. We see it in many cultural expressions from fashion, to advertising, to festivals, and beyond, music animates society.
As with everything else, it is our conscious intention or lack of it, that makes the difference in our experience.Try exploring new music when you want to get out of a rut. Just as you are what you eat, you should choose your music wisely because it is influencing the way you feel whether you notice it or not.