If you haven’t been living under a rock then you’ve probably heard Plato’s beautiful quote–“Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” He’s right! Music is one of the most fascinating, intangible things we have in this world right up on the top shelf with love. I wanted to discover just how special music is to our lives, moods and minds.
When we listen to music, it’s processed through many different areas of the brain. Interestingly enough, our brain has different responses to sad music and happy music. There are two emotions related to music– perceived emotions and felt emotions. Basically, we as humans can understand the emotions of piece of a music without actually feeling them. For instance, you listen to Adele (eh-hem HELLO) and really enjoy it instead of getting super depressed and making people around you uncomfortable. We can perceive the emotions without actually feeling them.
Playing music is a whole other level of awesome for the brain. Plenty of scientists and researchers refer to playing music as a full body workout for the brain. Playing an instrument activates almost every part of the brain all at once. It increases the volume and activity in the brain’s corpus callosum- the bridge between the two hemispheres of the brain, allowing messages to get across the brain faster and through more diverse routes. This may allow musicians to solve problems more effectively and creatively, in both academic and social settings. Because making music also involves crafting and understanding its emotional content and message, musicians also have higher levels of executive function aka planning, strategizing, and attention to detail. Some. We hold no accountability for anyone assuming a musician they know would be functioning in any strategically attentive manner.
There are great benefits to playing an instrument. However, there are still many benefits to reap solely by just listening. It has been proven that music helps to vastly improve mood and mental health. We all walk different paths of life and have different music tastes but there are a few things we all have in common. Many studies have shown that a majority of people who listen pop, rock, oldies and classical felt happier and more optimistic, friendly, relaxed, and calm. In the opposite, many studies show that listening to grunge led to increases in hostility, sadness, tension, and fatigue. That said, knowing how different types of music can affect your mood should help you know what you need to put on the next time you’re having a case of the blues.
Music can be very helpful with calming anxiety and stress in the mind! That is why it is often used in operating rooms, waiting rooms of all kinds, dentist offices, cancer centers, nursing homes and rehab centers to help relax patients and give them a more optimistic outlook. You will also often find therapists using music as part of their prescribed therapy to help their patients who struggle with sadness and anxiety. And not just any music. Some studies suggest that specially designed music, such as music that includes tones that intentionally induce binaural beats to put brain waves into relaxed delta or theta rhythms, can help improve symptoms in anxious patients even more than music without these tones.
Next week I am going to explore this further and how music helps us focus in the gym, work and how it helps our creativity. So far we know that music can make us smarter, calmer, happier, and help us learn about human emotions. In the words of the late, great Albus Dumbledore, “Ah, music,” he said, wiping his eye. “A magic beyond all we do here!”