Looking back in human history it seems to be obvious that music is an essential part of our culture. It is something that defines decades and centuries of cultural language, a way in which early tribes used to express themselves just as the modern human being does. Music transfers emotions with a certain ease. Sometimes a few chords are all it takes to make one smile from one ear to the other, or burst into tears of joy. But there is more to music than that. Today we will take a deeper look at what music really does to our body.
“I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from.” – Billy Joel
Sometimes all it takes to feel joy, happiness or excitement is your favorite tune, right? Well research proves, that listening to music you like causes your brain to release large amounts of dopamine, the body’s “happy”-neurotransmitter. Listening to your favorite tracks also decreases the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Even more so if you are actively taking part in making music by singing, playing an instrument or even just tapping your feet. Given the fact that more than 60% of all common illnesses and diseases are caused or influenced by our stress level, music may be a huge relief for not only your body but also your soul. It helps you to stay calm and let your mind wander, while having a stressful day (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12015810)
The positive effects of music sometimes even exceed medication. Researchers found that relaxing music played to pre-op patients helps to decrease anxiety, even better than Midazolam, a medication that is orally administered (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20013543). Bob Marley once said, that music hits you and you won’t feel pain. He called that a good thing. After finding out that music actually does reduce pain in intensive care patients or geriatric care patients and might even provide a better solution for the patient’s pains felt during cancer treatments, we cannot deny that Marley was absolutely right (http://news.health.com/2011/08/12/music-eases-cancer-patients-anxiety-study/).
Also, music helps stroke patients. They have a much better recovery of memory and cognitive function, when listening to music, that contains lyrics, helping them to regain their verbal memory (http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2008-02/uoh-ltm021508.php). Researchers are making progress in taking advantage of this benefit in Alzheimer’s Disease treatment. Dr. Laura Mosqueda, Director of Geriatrics at the University of California at the Irvine School of Medicine, explains that because music affects so many areas of the brain, it stimulates pathways that may still be healthy. (http://www.alzheimers.net/2013-06-04/music-therapy-for-dementia/)
Furthermore Music might even be a path to greatness for children. Research shows that leraning instruments and actively participating in making music predicts better performance in school and might increase the IQ-level. By the way, one of those studies showed that the test group of kids having singing classes did have the best results, not by far, but slightly (http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0003566).
But on the other end of one’s lifespan there can be very positive effects of music just as well as in young age. Learning how to play an instrument requires new or alternate connections in the brains nervous network. Therefor healthy older adults who played or still play an instrument score higher in test of cognitive capabilities than those who don’t. It’s never too late to start learning an instrument though. That way you might even be able to compensate cognitive declines (http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/brain-and-behavior/articles/2011/04/25/music-training-may-help-keep-aging-brain-healthy).
After looking deeply into the facts and researches there is no other thing left to say than: “Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of our soul.” – Plato. And he could not be more right about it. Music is an essential part of any human being. And after all Billy Joel put it just right. Music can transfer emotions better than any language, which makes it a language of its own. A unique and universal form of communication. Something to love and share with other human beings. Music connects, no matter the boundaries and artificial walls that cultures may build between themselves. Music overcomes all obstacles and has been serving humanity as relief of body and soul for ages, and will do so for ages to come.
Robin Lindner, Author,
Lead Singer / Songwriter (Gents&Generals)