In the rhythm of our daily lives, music plays a central role, threading its tunes into the very fabric of our life. It’s more than a background tune in a store or elevator; it’s a language that transcends all borders and cultures and speaks to our core. But how often do we stop to think about the profound impact music has on our life?

Music has been intertwined with human culture for centuries, dating back to prehistoric times. For most people, music holds a profound and satisfying place in their life. Studies show that our enjoyment of music often stems from the manner it aligns with our sensitive and cognitive expectations. While listening to a song, we expect a musical pattern based on our familiarity with certain rhythms and melodies. Meeting these expectations will determine whether we enjoy the music, or not.

Research shows that music triggers similar emotions and physical sensations across cultures. A study of 1500 Western and Asian participants found that sad and tender music was felt in the chest region in both populations, while danceable and cheerful music was felt in the arms and legs. These findings underscore music’s universal influence on the body.

Beyond being a source of pleasure for our bodies, music has several therapeutic benefits…

Cognitive benefits

Music plays a significant role in enhancing cognitive functioning. Listening to music activates several neural pathways in the brain, which in turn trigger plastic changes in the nervous system. This leads to improved cognitive function such as improvements in memory. In fact, a study found that when upbeat and downbeat background music was played in the background, memory improved in older adults. Meanwhile, when upbeat music was played, processing speed was improved. And in studies done on children and adults, foreign language learning is accelerated when the material (new words and phrases) is presented in the form of a song.

Emotional benefits

Need to boost your mood? Listen intentionally to upbeat music. In a two-week study participants who were told to improve their mood by listening to 12 minutes of upbeat music each day reported higher increases in happiness than those who simply listened to the music without trying to alter their mood.

Likewise, music therapy can help treat depressive symptoms. Meta-analyses have shown that music therapy combined with conventional treatment for depressive symptoms was more beneficial than conventional treatment alone. Music therapy helps with depression as listening to music causes the release of dopamine, which makes us feel good, as well as endorphins, which are hormones that boost mood and relieve pain.

Weight loss benefits

There are several ways music can be beneficial for weight loss. The first mechanism by which music can help with weight loss is reducing caloric intake. Eating in a dimly lit restaurant where soft music is playing can reduce one’s food intake by close to 20 percent. Researchers hypothesize that the setting and music create a calming environment, which makes one more relaxed, eat slower, and be more in tune with the body’s satiety signals.

Meanwhile, listening to fast-paced music increases one’s motivation to exercise harder. In a study done on participants riding on stationary bicycles at self-paced speeds, when the music tempo was increased, researchers noted an increase in the speed, distance covered, and power exerted.

In addition, listening to music, in particular relaxing music, reduces stress levels. This is vital for weight loss as when stress levels are chronically elevated, cortisol levels remain elevated and appetite increases as a result. Also, cravings for high-calorie, high-fat foods increase, thereby impeding weight loss.

Pain management benefits

Listening to music can also be helpful for chronic and acute pain management. Patients suffering from primary fibromyalgia, a chronic pain syndrome have noted significant reductions in not only pain but also depression when treated with a music intervention. Similarly, in people undergoing surgical procedures, a meta-analysis showed that music reduced postoperative pain and pain medication use.  Less anxiety and greater satisfaction were also reported.

One of the mechanisms for music’s pain-relieving qualities is the ability of music to distract one from feeling pain. Listening to music also enhances one’s overall feelings of well-being, reducing the perception of pain.

How to incorporate music into your life

You don’t have to be a professional musician to enjoy the positive effects of music in your life. By making a couple tweaks in your daily routine, you too can enjoy the healing benefits of music.

Some things you can do include watching musicals on movie night, pairing music with your morning or evening meditation, singing in the shower, listening to a playlist while doing dishes or exercising, singing in the shower, going to a concert for date night, or even joining a local choir. The possibilities are endless!

By incorporating music into our daily routine, we can uncover a universal language that not only adds richness to our experiences, but also serves as a therapeutic force, enhancing our cognitive, emotional, and physical well-being. So, let the force of music be with you!

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