Influence comes in all forms and from all kinds of sources in life as we know it today. I can’t think of a greater influence on culture than that of music. Just the word “music” itself puts a thought, song, genre or memory into your mind the moment you hear it. If you strip away all voices, people, and connections from my life, the one constant thread that has always been and will always be there for me is music. It’s so much more than a song, background noise, hobby, generic term or subject you study. It is a constant that remains when so many other things fail. Music is it’s own language and though it may sound different in different languages or interpretations, it is art, math, creativity, genius, therapy, healing, entertainment and worship, all rolled up into one massive, yet personal package.
The Effect of Music On The Mind
I think we have just scratched the surface on the way music has an effect on human beings. Yes, a happy song can bring about happy feelings, but it goes so much deeper than that. Music can have a profound effect on your brain, in ways you probably aren’t even aware of. Let’s dig into the way music can effect:
Your Memory - A 2009 from the University of California found that there is a part of our brains that can associate certain music with certain memories from our past, reconnecting us with deeply personal memories. Music has been known to bring Alzheimer's patients back to cognitive responses when other forms of communication were not working.
Your Emotion - Research has shown that music ignites our emotions through certain channels in our brain. Music can trigger a hormone known as oxytocin, which doctors call the “cuddle hormone” that can actually be released by singing, like when a mother sings to her newborn baby. Music is a strong influencer of emotions and can increase the amount of dopamine, proof that some of our emotions can be stimulated by our brains. Many Music Therapists find that using songs as a form of communication with autistic children has brought great results.
Your Attention - That song, the one that, as soon as it starts, no matter where you are or what you’re doing it, you stop and listen, even sing along. It has commanded your complete attention. Whether the lyrics to a song tell a story and take you along into the journey, or it is a moving or driving piece with no words, music can grab your attention and hold it for awhile.
Your Ability To Find New Ways Of Doing Things - For people who are dealing with the aftermath of a brain injury, they have a hard time accessing their memories and how they were able to complete normal, everyday functions. Music has been found as a catalyst to help the brain find new roads to connect the brain with memories and with re-learning skills that were once normal before the brain injury. The scientific term is neuroplasticity and it means the brain’s way of reorganizing itself and finding ways for the nerve cells to adjust to a new norm and find new ways to make things work.
The Benefit Of Music On The Body
We took a closer look at music and the ways it affects our minds, but you may be even more astonished at all the ways it can affect our bodies. Music can affect your body when you:
Sing - Medical studies have shown that singing (the physical act) gives you social, cognitive and emotional benefits to your life, can improve your mood and lower stress, anxiety, and depression.
Play An Instrument - Playing an instrument is great for your physical and mental health. When you tap into techniques and abilities required to use the instrument you are using the left side of your brain. As you try new things, make up your own melodies and add emotion to your playing you are using the right side of your brain. You are moving your body to play and using hand/eye coordination to play, engaging body and mind together. As amazing as that research is, your body also responds to the music you are listening to by your heart rate synchronizing with the beat of the song. People that sing together find that their breathing matches up and makes them feel happy to be doing a fun activity together in unity.
Dance- Not only is dancing a great means of physical exercise and activity, dancing brings great joy and happiness, giving one a relaxed and low stress activity. You have to admit, some songs just make your body want to move, so crank those up and enjoy some good dancing!
Keep The Beat (Drum) - Interesting research has been done on how different beats in music can affect your mood by creating different brain wave patterns that actually cause you to feel relaxed. Drumming has been found to have an amazing effect on brain wave patterns in a positive way, bringing help to those with certain brain conditions.
Manage Pain - A study on patients with fibromyalgia and a study on patients listening to music before and after surgery all experienced less pain, depression, and sadness than those patients who did not listen to any music. Researchers also found that patients who regularly listened to music didn’t need as much pain medication as those who did not listen to music.
Helps You Sleep - Researchers doing a study on those that suffer from insomnia found that patients who listened to relaxing, soothing music before going to bed had significantly more beneficial sleep hours than those who did not listen to music.
Music Holds Us Together
When I was pregnant with my first child I would always listen to the same CD every morning on my way to work. Now, it wasn’t because it was my favorite CD, more truthfully it was because I would always forget to bring more CD’s to the car with me for variety. And I was always late and always in a hurry. So, for at least the last 4 months he was in the womb, he heard the same music, at the same time, the same days of the week, every week. After he was born, we would put him in the car and he would SCREAM. Not a fan of car rides. We tried EVERYTHING. Hoping he would love music as much as me, I thought playing music might help the ear piercing screams coming from the back seat. What music was in the CD player? That’s right, the same CD I played the entire last half of being pregnant with him. I tell you the truth when I say, not even 10 seconds into the first song he quit crying and listened intently to those songs. He knew them, he remembered them. I wouldn’t not have believed it if someone else had told me this scenario, but there was a real experiment that played out before me. He knew that music, he remembered it, it brought him comfort and enjoyment and, as long as that CD was playing, he never cried on a car ride again. Music is the soundtrack to life that can bring us balance, joy, peace, comfort, hope, remembrance and a divine connection to those we hold dear. Find your favorite song, sing along, dance, laugh and cry as you celebrate the gift that a melody can change you and your mood in an instant.
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