Soothing melodies lull you to sleep. Hard-driving beats make workouts more intense. Listen to a song you loved in the past, and instantly you’re in that time and place again. Music affects how we feel, think and behave. And in all its many forms, music is a powerful healer too. Here are five of the many healing benefits of music.
1. Music Relieves Pain
Listening to music of any kind can reduce your perception of pain so that you feel painful sensations less intensely. Researchers found that when people who had undergone surgery or who have chronic pain conditions listened to music, they reported feeling less pain — even without taking pain medications.
2. Music Reduces Anxiety
Though the mechanisms aren’t precisely known, music relaxes the central nervous system, which is responsible for sending all those signals that make your heart race and your brow sweaty when you’re nervous. Classical music and gentle, New Age instrumentals top the list of musical selections for relaxation, but other kinds of music with a slow tempo and soft tones can ease anxiety too.
3. Music Makes Your Brain Work Better
People who listen to music or — even better — make music in any way tend to be better at complex tasks and retaining information than people who don’t. Because music encourages the brain to create new pathways, it may also help protect against Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia later in life.
4. Music Helps You Heal Faster
Listening to music can actually stimulate the body’s immune system and healing responses, which can shorten healing time after an injury or other health crisis. Music is being used to help cancer patients cope with the effects of chemotherapy and to support the recovery of stroke victims.
5. Music Motivates You to Action
Listening to music with lyrics about positive change makes people more willing to help others and think optimistically. Music also rallies people around causes and encourages them to persevere when things get tough.
Listening to music is the easiest way to reap its many benefits. But making music has healthy outcomes, too. Learning to play an instrument stimulates the brain and improves coordination and balance. Singing or humming creates vibrations in the diaphragm that can calm the nervous system, and dancing of any kind energises the whole body and encourages good balance and social connections.
Music is all around us — and within us, too. Whether you’re humming a tune or turning on the radio, its healing powers are always close at hand.