The Benefits of Music Throughout Our Lives
How music helps you mentally and physically
Music offers physical and mental health benefits all through life, whether you enjoy playing an instrument or listening to your favorite music. Research has found that music can:
- Lower your blood pressure. People who sang, listened to, or stretched to music for an hour every other week lowered their systolic blood pressure (the top number of the reading) by 5 to 6 points after three months, according to a study presented at an American Heart Association meeting last March. Such a drop can reduce your risk of stroke or heart disease by 5 to 15 percent, experts say.
- Boost your brain power. Listening to music with a strong beat causes changes in brain-wave activity, and faster beats lead to better concentration and alertness, research has found. Even people with serious cognitive disorders may benefit from making music a regular part of their lives. Some evidence suggests that familiar music helps to stimulate buried memories in patients with Alzheimer’s.
- Ease everyday stress. Just as quick tunes energize you, music with a slow and steady beat helps you feel calmer. Listening to peaceful and relaxing music can ease muscle tension, often a major contributor to stress, and it can help you breathe more evenly when you feel anxious. Upbeat tunes can improve your mood almost effortlessly.
Making music a part of your life
The key to getting the most from music is to find music you love and make it a regular part of your life. Here are some tips.
- Make time for music every day. Listen during your commute to music that puts you in a positive frame of mind. Load your MP3 player with your favorite tunes and listen to them on your break or your lunch hour. If you enjoy singing, sing in the shower. Have sing-alongs with family and friends.
- Exercise to music. Consider taking a dance or other exercise class that will let you exercise to music. Or listen to music while you walk or work out at a gym.
- Take a music appreciation course. You can find low- or no-cost course at many Ys, community or cultural centers, adult education programs, and elsewhere. Be open to learning about new types of music.
- Encourage love of music as a family. Enroll in a sing-along class at the public library with your toddler. Ask your teenager to share his or her favorite music with you. Play the radio in the car and sing along as a family. Take your kids to musicals.
One of the greatest pleasures of music is that helps you express deep feelings, including both joy and grief, that may be hard to put into words. The country music singer Reba McEntire was right when she said that even sad songs can have benefits. “For me, singing sad songs often has a way of healing a situation,” she said. “It gets the hurt out in the open into the light, out of the darkness.”