The Benefits of Listening to Music
‘If music be the food of love play on’ — Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare.
Not only the food of love, music is also the food of life; the power of its presence can benefit us in so many ways, improving not only our emotional wellbeing but also our physical health. In 2009, archaeologists uncovered a flute made from the wing bone of a vulture, proving that music has been part of culture for tens of thousands of years, and for very good reason.
Social connectedness is one of the prime functions of music — the feeling that other people have experienced the same emotions as us; the connection achieved by singing anthem songs at public events; the togetherness of songs sung or chanted at protests; and hymns at places of worship all work towards uniting us as an empathic species.
Research has proven that listening to music reduces anxiety, improves the quality of sleep, enhances mood, mental alertness and memory, and lowers blood pressure. An otolaryngologist at world-renowned research facility, John Hopkins, says, “There are few things that stimulate the brain the way music does. If you want to keep your brain engaged throughout the ageing process, listening to or playing music is a great tool. It provides a total brain workout.”
Studies have also shown that music can have a beneficial effect on people with mild to moderate dementia, helping them recall episodes from their lives. This is because music memory is one of the most resistant to decline, helping caregivers build trust and invoke calmness in patients with dementia.
The brain can be altered by music. Yes, you read that right: music can actually change the brain. Neurological research shows that listening to music triggers the release of chemicals that play a pivotal role in brain function and mental health, such as dopamine, cortisol, serotonin and oxytocin.
So, turn off the television, mute social media, pop in your earphones and play on!