We’re all aware of the immediate benefits of listening to music—it can help us through a generally mundane task like cleaning the bathroom, or help us drown out overly chatty office colleagues thanks to headphones.
However, music is useful for more than just bopping your head and grooving away the afternoon. Science has backed studies that show several physical and mental health benefits that are a bonus when listening to your favorite tunes. Here are five of those benefits…
1. It ‘Beats’ Pain
Several sources tout the ability of music to kill pain, including Men’s Fitness magazine, which notes that those listening to music allows them to work out for longer periods of time. It also details a study that proved those who had their favorite tunes playing in their head had less of a pain response to controlled electric shocks.
The magazine explains that the same neural pathways that process pain also happen to process music. When you are deep into a tune and even humming along, it uses up some of the “bandwidth” that the pain would usually occupy. There’s no particular kind of music that is best for pain relief, noted the article—it’s all about your preferences and what reaches you most.
2. It’s ‘Instrumental’ in Aging Brain Function
National Geographic magazine said that while listening to music is great for you, picking up an instrument and learning to play it can build new neural pathways that will benefit you in the future. While it’s especially important in childhood, learning the guitar or piano later in life can still have huge cognitive benefits, according to the 2014 article.
It also explains that the increased cognitive function built by learning music can slow down brain decline later in life. A study cited in the article noted that professional musicians were actually found to have more grey matter in their brain than non-musicians—and that changes become apparent in children who have undergone at least 15-months of musical training. Playing music uses both sides of your brain, so more of your mind is stimulated.
3. It helps ‘Tune’ your Immune System
McGill University in Montreal studied 400 research papers regarding the neurochemistry of music, and found many benefits including a boosted immune system. The findings from the university included that music increase levels of immunoglobulin A that helps your body fend off viruses. It also boosts antibodies responsible for destroying bacteria that slips past your body’s security systems.
The research team also found that music can lower cortisol levels that lead to stress—and we all know stress is not particularly good for your mind or body, causing everything from headaches to higher blood pressure. While drugs can actually worsen your body’s stress response, music helps you maintain your health naturally.
4. It provides ‘Notes’ to aid your Memory
Have you ever tried to memorize something such as a speech, wedding vows, or even a grocery list, but failed? Why is it you remember every word to songs from 20-years ago, but not what item you went down a grocery aisle for?
Experts have called learning with the help of music “The Mozart Effect”. Psychology Today details in an article that music boosts dopamine in the brain, which leads to “reward” motivation for the brain. A study showed that students with “more music experience” didn’t recall information as well as musically untrained after listening to pleasurable music. The article attributes this to distraction levels—musicians process good music more intricately, therefore absorbing less other information.
5. It Reduces ‘Treble’ related to Anxiety
Ok, clever headlines aside—music has been proven to reduce many symptoms including anxiety levels without the help of medications or therapy. The Huffington Post notes in a 2015 article that bringing music with a “slow tempo and low pitch” into a birthing room helped the author remain calm during the experience. It notes that music can prevent symptoms usually tied to anxiety such as a racing heart and increased blood pressure.
Psych Central also backs up the reduced anxiety claim, mentioning a controlled shock experiment similar to the one mentioned in an earlier slide. A study found that people with higher anxiety who were worried about the shock were helped more by music than those without elevated anxiety. The people with low anxiety may not have engaged in the experiment as closely as those bracing for it, the article from Psych Central notes.