Is listening to music is good for you? The answer: very much so! Discover the many benefits of listening to music, ranging from less stress, increased productivity, and even greater intelligence.
Sure, we know that physical exercise is essential to stay fit and healthy. But what if you want to exercise your brain?
Here’s one simple solution: Play some music! As it turns out, there are several impressive benefits of music on the brain. Keep reading to learn about them.
Why is music good for you?
Neuromusicology is a new branch of neuroscience responsible for examining the impact of music on the nervous system. In other words, it sheds light on how the brain understands and responds to hearing and making music.
Music and Health
There are multiple benefits of both listening to music and making or performing it. For starters, music can improve your:
- mental alertness
- spatial-temporal learning
Even further, additional health benefits of music include better sleep and even pain relief.
Brain Health Benefits for Musicians
Learning to play an instrument requires practice, which leads to greater connections in the motor regions of the brain’s two hemispheres. As a result, the corpus callosum—which is responsible for connecting the two hemispheres—thickens.
Plus, musicians typically demonstrate great coordination. After all, they typically must learn to use both hands at the same time, and often perform opposing movements. This results in the enlargement of the cerebellum, a brain region associated with balance and coordination.
Because of this, musicians may have bigger, more sensitive, and better-connected brains, lending to more rapid and efficient information processing.
However, even if you’re not a musician, rest assured that you can still reap the brain benefits of listening to music.
7 Benefits of Listening to Music
Here’s a closer look at the many ways in which hearing music benefits the brain.
1. Music Lifts Your Mood
One of the principal benefits of listening to music is that it feels good.
That’s because it causes the release of dopamine, a feel-good neurochemical that can lead to feelings of pleasure. As you tune in, the striatal system—which includes the caudate nucleus, putamen, hippocampus, and cerebellum—lights up. It’s the same rush of pleasure that happens when you eat good food or have sex.
Tip: Want to amplify the benefits of music on the brain? Listen to it while doing something else you love, such as your favorite workout or cooking.
2. Music Relieves Stress
Another fantastic health benefit of listening to music is that it reduces stress.
For instance, simply hearing a song that reminds you of a special person or place is enough to reduce levels of cortisol. (As we know, this stress hormone can wreak havoc on the body.)
By listening to music, you can enjoy the release of dopamine and serotonin canceling out cortisol. From there, any reduction in stress helps you feel more in control of your life—and feelings of control can make you feel more hopeful and powerful. Simply put, listening to music truly makes you feel better.
Tip: Boost the feel-good benefits of music by shuffling your library or playlists. By listening to a song you haven’t heard in a while, you generate a greater release of dopamine and serotonin.
3. MUSIC Promotes Auism
Perhaps surprisingly, listening to music can even generate feelings of goodwill and connectivity.
Oxytocin is another hormone that gets released when you listen to music. Known as the love hormone, it increases feelings of intimacy and trust.
Neuroscience research shows that people with higher levels of oxytocin are kinder and more generous to others. In other words, while listening to music by yourself is good for you, doing so with others can be even better to foster greater connection.
4. Music Improves Memory
Next, the areas of the brain associated with processing music and memory are heavily connected.
By listening to music, you open up a Pandora’s box of memories. As music activates the auditory cortex, it simultaneously stimulates the hippocampus (the birthplace and home of memories).
Studies exploring the impact of familiar songs on brain activity show that several brain regions activate, including those associated with memory, language, and emotion.
As you hear a memorable song, your brain instantly brings that memory to mind, in part because emotions help form long-term memories. Meanwhile, the activation of the hippocampus strengthens, resulting in better memory.
5. Music Boosts Intelligence
It turns out that another benefit of listening to music is that it helps you think faster.
Since the entire brain is required to process music, an IQ boost can naturally result. To interpret and connect sounds captured by each ear, the brain’s hemispheres need to communicate. By listening to music, the corpus callosum grows stronger and has more neuronal connections. In turn, this results in a faster connective processing speed, allowing you to connect ideas and concepts more quickly.
Furthermore, listening to lyrics improves language and vocabulary skills, as musicians use language in unique ways to evoke different ideas and emotions. Lyrics often resemble poems—and poetry requires the brain to focus to interpret the meaning of each word.
In essence, trying to understand a song’s message expands your vocabulary and the brain regions associated with language.
6. Music Enhances Cognitive Performance
Similar to the point above, research shows that music enhances cognition and performance. One study looking at the impact of musical exposure in school-aged children shows that those who attend music lessons have greater verbal and vocabulary skills.
Then, another benefit of listening to music is enhanced spatial intelligence (i.e., understanding how things work together). In particular, math and science rely heavily on spatial intelligence.
Tip: The next time you need to balance your checkbook or make a spreadsheet, put on some tunes. Background music can increase accuracy and performance on cognitive tasks.
7. Music Boosts Productivity + Creativity
Lastly, recent research demonstrates that music can increase productivity and creativity. So if you have writer’s block or need to come up with a creative idea, put on an upbeat playlist. The increase in tempo will help you think of novel ways to express your ideas.
Tip: To boost productivity and creativity even further, listen to new artists and genres of music. If you like jazz, try classical. If you love country, try funk or pop. It may sound counterintuitive, but changing things up amps up these final benefits even more.
When you listen to an unfamiliar song, the brain must find creative ways to interpret those new sounds. That enforced creativity carries over to your work, as well.
As we wrap up the many benefits of listening to music, you might be wondering what type of music is best for your brain.
According to the so-called Mozart effect, listening to classical music increases intelligence. However, there’s actually “little evidence left for a specific, performance-enhancing Mozart effect.”
So, in sum, listen to what you love, try new things, and move to the beat of your own drum. That may include music with or without lyrics, songs that are fast-paced or calming, or a mix of any and all genres and types.
Finally, know that you’re never too old to benefit from the brain-boosting power of music.
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