A Healthy Melody
Music can do so much more for us than just lift our spirits
In my “Stay Tuned” column on music and well-being that appeared two years ago on these pages, I considered music’s surprising potential to help us lead fulfilling, healthy lives. Since that time, it seems that nearly every week has brought news regarding the beneficial effects of music. Recent studies are not only confirming previous findings, but presenting new and exciting revelations as well. In my previous column I touched on some of these, but would like to present a more detailed list this time around. Take a look below to see how music has been shown to enhance well-being and even help in recovery from illness. This is just a sampling of what music has proven to be capable of doing for us.
• Heightening positive emotions • Stimulating the reward centers of our brains • Reducing chronic pain • Alleviating anxiety • Improving immune function • Inducing a meditative state • Treating insomnia and other sleep disorders • Improving blood flow • Slowing the heart rate • Lowering blood pressure • Promoting the body’s production of antibodies • Easing stress before surgery • Limiting the need for sedatives during surgery • Improving post-surgical outcomes and reducing pain • Reducing long-term mortality in heart attack victims • Lessening the risk of falls in the elderly through music and movement • Helping Parkinson’s patients with their mobility • Accelerating language recovery after a stroke or traumatic brain injury • Helping memory recall for people suffering from dementia • Soothing premature babies while helping them gain weight more quickly • Bolstering autism spectrum disorder patients’ social skills • Suppressing levels of stress hormones and inflammatory cytokines • Encouraging more intense workouts • Increasing endurance during exercise • Hastening post-workout recovery • Making time fly by quickly • Triggering memories and associations • Getting in touch with your emotions • Relieving symptoms of depression • Promoting the brain’s plasticity by establishing new nerve connections • Activating nearly every region of the brain How many of these benefits have you noticed in your life, and under which circumstances would you like to use music more often, and more effectively? Remember: It’s never too late to add more music to your life. For what else—besides music—can offer such a diverse array of potential benefits?
Pianist, instructor and musicologist Erik Entwistle received an undergraduate degree in music from Dartmouth College. He earned a post-graduate degree in piano performance at Washington University in St. Louis. He earned his doctorate in musicology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He teaches on Sanibel Island.