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Can Music Improve Our Health? Dr Badran Answers

Wed 03 Jan 2024 | 11:30 PM
Dr. Magdy Badran
Dr. Magdy Badran
By Dr. Magdy Badran

Music can bring us joy and comfort, to motivate us, and to help us relax. It can transport us back in time, calm our worried minds, or boost our moods. There is a song for every emotion.

The elements of music – sound, rhythm, harmony, melody. – are echoed in our physiology, functioning, and being. Music and/or elements of music may reduce stress and improve quality of life.

Potential Benefits

The universal bond with music has led researchers to investigate its therapeutic potential. In general, research shows that music may help you relax, help you explore your emotions, reduce anxiety or depression, ease your stress levels, regulate your mood, strengthen your communication skills, improve speaking and language skills, build social skills, strengthen your self-confidence, and develop your problem-solving skills.

Enhancing Attention and Focus

Music has also been shown to improve focus and attention and boost mental performance when studying or when working on a task. Music may help reduce stress, improve some aspects of memory, and improve cognitive function, which may all help with concentration and focus when studying.

Steer clear of any music with lots of lyrics or a distracting beat, instead, opt for some classical music. Classical music has been found to bring about a balanced, stable, calm state of mind and improve learning efficiency. Music — classical music, specifically — can help your brain absorb and interpret new information more easily. Music can engage your brain in such a way that it trains it to pay better attention to events and make predictions about what might happen.

Music is Healing

Music is an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we are from, everyone loves music. We can all think of at least one song that, when we hear it, triggers an emotional response.

We have such a deep connection to music because it is ‘hardwired’ in our brains and bodies. Numerous studies have shown music can benefit our mental health. Listening to music increases the amount of dopamine produced in the brain – a mood-enhancing chemical, making it a feasible treatment for depression. But increasingly, researchers are finding that the health benefits of music may go beyond mental health.

Reducing Pain

Music is a noninvasive, safe, cheap intervention that should be available to everyone undergoing surgery. Music may reduce pain and anxiety for patients who have undergone surgery. The pain-relieving tendencies of music has been ascribed to music's ability to distract; when our minds are focused on a beloved melody, we don't notice our aching back quite as much. Music also increases overall feelings of well-being, which may decrease pain perception.

Music may be beneficial for patients with fibromyalgia – a disorder that causes muscle and joint pain and fatigue. Listening to music triggers the release of opioids in the brain, the body’s natural pain relievers.

Music and Memory

Certain types of music can help boost memorization abilities and other cognitive functions. Music helps stimulate your brain, similar to the way exercise helps stimulate your body. The more you exercise your muscles, the stronger they become, right? Giving your brain a cognitive workout could help strengthen it in a similar fashion.

Certain songs have the ability to remind us of certain periods or events in our lives – some that make us smile, and some we would rather forget.

Music may help memory recall for people with cognitive disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Singing and music listening improve mood, overall well-being, and working memory.

Regular musical leisure activities can have long-term cognitive, emotional, and social benefits in mild/moderate dementia and could therefore be utilized in dementia care and rehabilitation.

A Stress Reliever

Music is effective for relaxation and stress management. When feeling stressed, you may find listening to your favorite music makes you feel better – and there are numerous studies that support this effect.

Stress puts us at higher risk of many health problems, including anxiety, depression, digestive problems, headaches, muscle tension and pain, heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure and stroke, sleep problems, and weight gain.

Relaxing music may lower cortisol levels, pulse, heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature. Stimulating music produces increases in cardiovascular measures, whereas relaxing music produces decreases. Slow music and musical pauses are associated with a decrease in heart rate, respiration and blood pressure, and faster music with increases in these parameters. Music’s effect on heart rate and its potential as a stress reliever has led a number of researchers to believe music may also be effective for treating heart conditions.

Music and Exercise

Music creates a rhythm response. This rhythm response is the tendency for people to synchronize their movements with the music.

Most people will find that exercise is much easier when listening to music. Listening to music makes exercise feel easier and more pleasurable allowing you to work out harder than you would in silence. This is because fast-paced, upbeat music increases your heart rate and gives you a burst of energy, fueling motivation and maximizing performance.

So, if you’re needing a bit of a boost before your next workout, try putting together a soundtrack of your favorite energizing tracks.

Does Music Increase Oxytocin?

Listening to music can trigger the release of oxytocin, the ‘love hormone’ that helps us in developing empathy, trust, and compassion for others. So, if you’re ever feeling lonely try listening to some music to create a sense of belonging and connection. The increase of oxytocin levels is more when people sing in a group, which adds the element of bonding.

Many experimental human oxytocin studies involve intranasal delivery of the peptide. Most of the studies describe positive, prosocial effects, including changes in empathy, recognition and interpretation of emotions, enhanced group co-operation and trust, and a reduction in the perception of stress and anxiety.

Music is universal, it brings people together from all walks of life. It doesn’t really matter what language you speak or where you are from, music is a language that all of us can understand. It brings people together at concerts, at places of worship and celebrations.

What Kind of Music Works Best?

Listening to music while you study, or work doesn’t always make you less productive or efficient. Stream commercial-free music, if possible.

Avoid music with lyrics. Any music that has lyrics in a language you understand will probably prove more distracting than helpful.

Choose slow, instrumental music. Avoid surprising or experimental music. Music that changes abruptly or lacks a fixed rhythm can leave you guessing about what to expect. This can distract your brain and keep you from focusing on your work.

Keep the volume low. Study music should stay at a background volume. If it’s too loud, it could disrupt your thinking process.

Stick to songs you don’t have strong feelings about. Listening to music you either love or hate can affect your ability to concentrate.