They say that music is food for the soul and one of the most versatile healers there is on this planet. So I have compiled a list of the top ten ways music can help you feel better and happier in your everyday life, because everyone needs a little pick-me-up every now and then…
Soothes you to sleep, helping with insomnia
It all starts with a lullaby in your former years and now music has had a calming effect ever since. Music can cause your hormones to release a chemical known as serotonin, which can help you sleep better, according to music therapist Jennifer Buchanan. Studies have also shown that soft music with slower rhythms can reduce the stress and anxiety that interfere with your sleep and promote lowered heart and respiratory rates that ease insomnia. Other research claims that not only does music help you to fall asleep but it also lulls you into a deeper, longer, less interrupted slumber, which enhances how you function during the daytime. Classical music is seen as particularly effective.
Outlet for your emotions and a source of support when you can identify with lyrics
The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) uses music to aid communicative issues, to increase patient motivation and as an outlet for emotional support and expression of feelings. Recently Cambridge University neuroscientists Dr. Becky Inkster and Dr. Akeem Sule pitched the idea of a ‘Hip Hop Psych’ class to help mental illness patients find hope in their relation to the life experiences of rappers and use the medium to vent through their own issues.
Triggers memories, building a stronger sense of self
John Kubie from Brain Facts claims that there is a well-established connection between place and memory, as music can evoke place memories and vice versa, location is usually a vivid part of that recollection. Nostalgia creates a sense of identity and therefore a stronger self-awareness, which leads to more personal growth. When you understand where you have come from and who you are, your self-worth and esteem tends to be higher and you are generally happier. It’s like a domino effect.
Motivates you to exercise, reducing obesity
It’s crazy how much certain songs can push you to go harder when you’re working out. Whether that is down to enjoyment of the song or simply the pace of the track, it makes a difference. The latest report by the National Obesity Awareness Week organisation states that 1 in 4 adults in the UK is obese and obesity levels could reach 50% of the population by 2050. If that is not motivation enough to plug your earphones in and up the cardio, I don’t know what is.
Produces endorphins to make you happier
ABC7 news anchor, Dr Peter Crookes, believes that music “causes the release of endorphins” and that “anything that will open the patient’s mind to other dimensions of life helps them to cope with it.” Actively listening to a song, taking in the instrumental and the lyrics, can “channel the brain and train certain actions” beneficial to your general wellbeing. Active listening also causes your hormones to release dopamine, which is known as the ‘feel good hormone’, according to music therapist Jennifer Buchanan. Music is therefore a kind of food for the soul, if you will.
Method of relaxation to reduce stress and anxiety
Tuning out the world to your favourite songs is a great stress reliever and reduces anxiety; these effects can be escalated if you combine it with other relaxation techniques like yoga and hypnosis. Music therapist Jennifer Buchanan advises counting out the beat in a song to achieve calm and focus your mind on the track alone, similar to meditation.
Educational lyricism can increase your awareness of social issues
Hip-hop, in particular, has always been used as a vehicle to vent the frustrations of the community and the injustices in society; which makes it universally relatable. Following the unlawful police shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, rappers J. Cole, The Game and T.I., to name a few, spoke out on the issue of racial profiling and spit some informative wisdom in their bars.
Escapism quality helps to distract from physical pain
This calming element of music can also bring you escapism, when you truly get lost in it. If you learn how to channel that calming energy and focus on it and that alone, it can serve as a powerful distraction from physical pain and fear. Medical experts usually suggest closing your eyes and listening to music when you’re about to undergo an operation, injection or even when you’re getting tatted.
Can help autism sufferers with developing their speech
Music therapists tend to get autistic patients to channel their experiences into poems and song lyrics and then to recite them and practice them in order to improve their communication skills. Buchanan comments: “music quickly taps into the reward centres in our brain,” which motivates patients to stay focused on getting better.
Dancing can open you up to more social situations and improve how you interact with other people
It doesn’t take an expert to know that music can easily get people dancing and having fun; whether that’s in front of your bedroom mirror or in a social situation, it’s pretty much a given. Dancing is a powerful way of bringing people together and can also be a way of embracing your culture and spreading your traditions with outsiders. The endorphins released from exercising will also motivate you to continue for longer. When you’re having fun and staying in shape at the same time, it’s got to be a win win situation regardless.
Struggling with depression? Get clued up on the best options available for your individual situation here.
Meditation is another great way to unwind and de-stress when life gets too much. Check out the M&M beginner’s guide to meditation here.