We all have that one song that never fails to lift our spirits or melt away our stress – even if it’s just for a little bit. The song might change over time (I know mine has!), but that perfect song has a way of bringing warmth to your heart every time you hear it. What’s yours? For me, it could be almost anything sung by Michael Bublé. But if I had to pick just one, it would be “Come Fly With Me” by Frank Sinatra. Even the name is uplifting!
The ability of music to bring joy and reduce stress has been recognized for centuries by cultures all over the world. Many texts, including the Bible, frequently reference the beauty of music, singing, and dancing and their positive effect on our moods. One such example is Isaiah 30:29.
You shall have a song
As in the night when a holy festival is kept,
And gladness of heart as when one goes with a flute,
To come into the mountain of God,
To the Mighty One of Israel.
Over the years, researchers have explored the various ways in which listening, playing, and dancing to music can help improve our physical and mental health. As it turns out, there are quite a few!
Studies have found that too much or too little of certain hormones, such as cortisol, oxytocin, β-endorphin, and serotonin, can increase stress, blood pressure, anxiety, depression, risk for heart disease. Music, however, appears to counteract many of these health problems by reducing stress, which has been shown to:
- Alleviate or prevent episodes of anxiety and depression
- Promote healthy activity (i.e., dancing, exercise)
- Encourage feelings of relaxation
- Calm and sedate (which promotes sleep)
- Decrease blood pressure
- Improve auto-immune response
- Improve communication (particularly in those with Alzheimer’s)
- Enhance memory
- Reduce pain sensation
- Shorten recovery time after surgery
- Reduce some drug dosages for pain by up to 50% among hospital patients
So turn on some music while you’re cooking dinner. Attempt a few notes on that instrument you’ve been meaning to pick up again. Go dancing. Sing along to the radio on your drive home or to your children as you tuck them into bed at night. Whatever kind of music tickles your fancy, odds are, it’s good for your health – so crank it up (though not too loud — got to protect those ears!)
And with that, here is a little something to get you going.
– Melanie Kolkin
Music, Health, and Wellbeing by Raymond MacDonald, Gunter Kreutz, and Laura Mitchell
Music therapy provides mental, physical benefits by Mark Canny
The benefits of music in hospital waiting rooms by RL Routhieaux and DA Tansik
Music enhances the effect of positive emotional states on salivary IgA by Rollin McCraty, Mike Atkinson, and Glen Rein
(Photo by Flickr user craigCloutier via Creative Commons)