Observing the unmitigated joy of a musician who is completely in their element, taken to another world by the sounds they can make with their instrument or their voice, is exhilarating. Listening to that music is even more amazing. Aside from playing music yourself, just hearing a great tune can do some extraordinary things to your brain.
Here are six of them:
Musicians and People Who Consistently Listen to Music Have More Symmetrical Brains. Why is this significant? Master meditators, geniuses, and people who can access both their analytical and creative, intuitive brains also have more symmetrical brains. A brain that is more left or right brain dominant can make simple problem solving, or even an out of body experience less likely to occur. Symmetrical, or whole brain activity also leads to a greater experience of joy, compassion, and other beneficial emotions. Even altered states are a synchronized, whole-brain-dominant phenomenon. Is it any wonder Jimmy Hendrix or Prince looked simply orgasmic when playing guitar?
Listening to Upbeat Music Can Instantly Improve Your Mood. This one hardly needs explanation, but there is scientific proof. Listening to any uplifting song can be as effective as taking Prozac, for turning your upside-down mood, right-side up again. A 2013 study by neuroscientists also found that listening to a single song (called Marconi Union) could reduce anxiety by up to 70 percent.
Listening to Music Increases the Neurochemical Dopamine. Dopamine is an amazing chemical hormone made by our bodies. Without it we tend to be lethargic, tired, depressed, anxious, and moody. With higher levels of dopamine, we have a greater zest for life, more motivation, and the 86-plus billion neurotransmitters in our brain work better. Translation – dopamine makes us smart, motivated, energetic, and happy, and music helps us to make more of it naturally.
Oxytocin is Higher in Those Who Play and Listen to Music. Oxytocin is called the “cuddle hormone” and the “love hormone” because it’s what mothers make when they hold their babies and gaze into their eyes adoringly. It’s also the neurochemical your body releases when you make love or see someone familiar that you like. Oxytocin is a hormone which helps us to bond with others and feel greater empathy, and music helps us to create it in our brains and bodies.
Music Makes Us Smarter in Many Ways. Music increases special cognitive functioning, to learn languages faster, raises our IQ scores, increases our short-term memory, and even helps people to excel in extremely left-brain dominant fields like science, mathematics, computer science, engineering, and more. Brain imaging technology has proven that music even helps us to multi-task, get along with others (increasing social and emotional intelligence) and make better decisions when faced with problems.
Music May Help Alter Brain Chemicals that Affect Immunity and Our Pain Response. Listening to music has also been proven to help us heal faster from physical trauma, emotional trauma, and boost immunity. It also lessens our response to any pain stimulus. Music can even heal the body, both by altering our biochemistry, and through the use of specific musical tones which have been proven to positively affect our cells’ functioning. Sound therapy has been used to heal everything from cancer to auto-immune conditions to tinnitus, and depression.
So, aside from listening to some good music just to pass the time, music is a universal language and therapy which alters how our brains work. Need an instant pick-me-up? Scroll through your favorite online music station, and find a toe-tapping tune. Your brain and body will benefit tremendously.
Written by Christina Sarich