Feel-Good Music: How Music Makes You Better


Author: Leo Akin
June, 2015


Music is more than the food of love and it can do more than calm the heart of a beast. There is solid evidence to prove that humans are wired to respond to music. In fact, the right kind of music can significantly influence your mood, behavior, health and mental performance. If you are not a music lover, the results of the studies discussed below should change your mind. Music is more than a rhythmic repetition of sounds; it can be just as potent as drugs and its positive effect on the immune system has been thoroughly demonstrated.

Music Can Improve Your Emotions and Reasoning

In a 2013 study published in the journal, Science, a group of researchers had some participants listen to music while monitoring their brain activities. In their findings, they described how music turned on certain areas of the brain such as the amygdala, nucleus accumbens and prefrontal cortex. These are also the parts of the brain involved in the processing and regulation of emotions and cognition. Therefore, the right kind of music can lift your mood and improve your decision-making skills.

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Music and Mood

The Science study demonstrated that music prompted the release of dopamine from the nucleus accumbens. Different types of music can affect the levels and activities of different neurotransmitters. This is why sad music makes us depressed and upbeat music lifts the mood. Music can also lower anxiety and stress levels. In a review of over 400 studies investigating the subject, one particularly specific study demonstrated that music can lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels and reduce anxiety among patients preparing for surgery. In that study, the researchers found music to be better than anti-anxiety drugs at putting the patients at ease as well as improving the outcomes of their surgeries.

Can Infants Benefit from Music?

Adults are not the only ones that can benefit from music. Children, infants and even fetuses have all been shown to respond to the positive influences of music too. A group of clinicians demonstrated the health benefits of playing music in neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). According to their results, the researchers found that soothing music improved the health of preterm babies with infections and respiratory problems. This result should not sound surprising given the fact that mothers have traditionally sang to their babies to soothe them and lift their moods. Because music can boost the immune system, it is no wonder that it sped up the healing of those sick premature babies. Music for infants does more than simply heal. Studies show that by singing to their babies, parents can improve feeding patterns and enhance bonding. Plus singing can help these parents cope with the stress of childcare.

Making Music Part of Your Workouts

Music also has a place in fitness too. While listening to music, you are more likely to push yourself harder and for longer during your workout sessions. Studies show that music is one of the effective ways to make our workouts enjoyable and habitual. It is possible that music motivates us to exercise more or maybe it simply takes the mind off the pain building up in the muscles. In whatever capacity music may help, its effect on exercise is universal and desirable. In one study, researchers found that music increased endurance by as much as 15%.

Of course, the type of music you work out to matters. Slow-tempo songs will cause you to slow down while fast, thumping music will increase your exertion and performance. What is the right music to work out to? There are no universal songs to help you become healthier or fitter. The right songs for you are those that energize you; they are your favorite songs; the ones you relax to, get pumped to; the ones that boost your mood and ease your pain or fears.

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