To keep fit, we head to the gym. But did you know you can exercise your brain by listening to music?
Few things stimulate our brains the way music does. So if we want to keep our brains engaged as we age, listening to or playing music is a great workout tool we can all use.
Whether we realize it or not, music is structural, mathematical and architectural. There are relationships between one note to the next and our brain does a lot of computing to make sense of it all.
Think about how easily we are transported back to what we were doing the first time we heard one of our favorite songs? And what about that catchy jingle that keeps replaying in our heads, or the childhood melody we find ourselves humming when comforting a loved one…
What we listen to matters. Just as we rely on the sustenance of food and water, we are wired to be responsive to the sounds around us. If we are surrounded by toxic “music,” the lack of nourishment can have a deep impact.
We can improve our everyday lives by being mindful of our musical selection. Research shows that listening to music can reduce our blood pressure, anxiety and pain, as well as improve our moods, mental focus, memory, and even our sleep. Understanding the built-in benefits of “intentional listening” can open up new channels of communication that have a huge impact.
Tuning into a TEDX Talk by award-winning recording artist and concert pianist Donna Stoering, I was fascinated to hear of an elementary school teacher who tested that theory with her students. For two weeks Mozart sonatas greeted her kids when they arrived each morning. At first they were annoyed and asked her to stop. But after 14 days they noticed how it made them feel, and they looked forward to it. Turns out, their behavior improved and so did their test scores.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins used magnetic resonance imaging to study which areas of the brain light up for jazz performers and rappers when they improvise. Studies give us an awareness of options that may enhance our lives.
Jump On The Music Bandwagon
Try listening to what your kids or grandkids are listening to. We often find ourselves listening to the same songs and genre of music from our former years. It’s familiar and comfortable. New music challenges our brains in new ways. It may not always be pleasurable at first, but that unfamiliarity forces our brains to strive to understand it.
When we are trying to recall a specific memory or period of time, listening to music from that era can awaken long lost recollections. Music activates the brain’s hippocampus, responsible for memory formation and retrieval. Music also stimulates the amygdala, the part of the brain that processes emotions, sending us from laughter to tears. Our moods are improved by the increase of production of dopamine, serotonin and endorphins.
Listening to music can also impact how we listen to each other. Singing along also stimulates several areas of the brain that bolster our self-esteem and can lead to more positive interactions. Specific melodies open different parts of our brains, like the cerebellum, which is responsible for movement and coordination. That’s when we get the urge to start dancing.
Take note of how you react to different forms of music and select what works for you. A distraction to one, may help another to concentrate. What helps me unwind could make someone else jumpy. Classical music, for example, has been proven to help reduce blood pressure.
Play, with playing music. Do you need to focus your energies on a specific task at work? Maybe a soundtrack of atmospheric melodies is just what’s needed to keep your mind free of distractions so you can concentrate. Every time you put it on you’re developing a pattern that drops you into the moment. Want to feel motivated to hit the gym? Maybe it’s primal drum beats that get your heart pumping. Feel the need to unwind after a stressful day? Maybe classical music gives you space to reconnect with positive places within.
One thing for sure, music takes us places. Sort of gives us all something to think about, doesn’t it?
Let’s listen to what lights us up.
All wellness related content on Intentfully FiT is provided for general information and conversation only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the professional medical advice of your own physician or any other healthcare professional or medical practitioner. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional treatment, diagnosis, or medical advice, and should never be relied upon for specific medical recommendations.