Life is difficult and we are often bound to accept what is destined for us. But, at times, amid those challenges, we reach the point when we tend to lose our sanity. In those tough moments, the best idea for many of us is to seek solace in the world of imagination to rediscover our motivation. For me, that powerful source of motivation has been music. One of the many well-known benefits of music is that it gives you the power to picture your personal imaginary stories. It has helped me also create my own fantasies, helping me to escape the harsh realities of life.
In this article, I will mention the scientific studies and research papers that discuss the therapeutic benefits of music, its impact on human culture, and ways to include it in daily life.
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Music and the Human Culture
Throughout history, music has played a crucial role in human culture. It started as a way to entertain during ancient rituals and ceremonies and later people realized it could boost mental health.
It’s said that kings and emperors would invite renowned musical artists to ceremonies and pay them a hefty sum. And artists like Tansen even achieved great renown in the court of Emperor Akbar.
With the evolution of different traditions, spiritual masters worldwide used different forms of music, such as chants, drumming, and specific melodies to aid in recovery from various conditions.
I heard my father say that there are musical ragas that could rain, storm, or whatever you wanted to do if an expert sang it. It is a belief held in some traditional cultures, particularly in India.
Musical Heritage of India
This belief stems from the concept of “raga chikitsa” which includes using specific ragas to evoke particular emotions or even influence natural events like rain or storms (ref).
However, it’s important to note that while this belief is deeply rooted in folklore and cultural tradition, there is yet a lack of strong scientific evidence to back up these claims. This could be because no such experts exist in the present era or there are not many. (I guess so)
So, it’s confirmed that music is deeply rooted in culture and in recent years music therapy has gained scientific recognition as well for its ability to reduce anxiety and stress.
Now, let’s explore some of those studies and scientific facts here to illustrate how music can ease stress and enhance your overall well-being.
Scientifically Proven Benefits of Music for Human Well-Being
1. Music Helps Soothe Anxiety & Ease Stress
To start with scientific claims, numerous studies have been published to showcase the miraculous benefits of music on the human brain & body.
A recent meta-analysis by Lu et al. (2021) examined that music therapy had a significant positive impact on reducing anxiety levels and indicated the soothing and mood-uplifting qualities of music.
Another 2016 study conducted by Bradt et al. published in The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews showed that music significantly removed anxiety levels among various categories of the population including those with specific health conditions.
Now, let me know your personal experience. And how do you see your life without music? I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like to enjoy music.
Everyone has a personal taste and they prefer listening to music that aligns with their individual preferences and cultural background. And you will often hear many of them say they do it to reduce their daily stress.
Science also illustrates how music can have a calming effect and help alleviate your anxieties.
1.1. Benefits of music: it reduces stress hormones
A 2015 study by Linnemann & research review by Thoma et al. (2013) in the Journal of Music Therapy showed that if you listen to soothing music helps alleviate the production of cortisol, a stress hormone.
When the cortisol levels are lower in your body, you feel less anxious and experience a decreased level of stress.
Besides, the rhythms and melody of music have therapeutic effects. They regulate your emotions, create a sense of calm and thus minimize your stress and anxiety.
1.2. Music triggers the release of dopamine
While numerous scientific studies have already proven the positive impact and benefits of music on the brain, a new 2019 study found that listening to enjoyable music triggers the release of dopamine in the brain.
If you don’t know about dopamine, it’s a type of chemical that allows you to feel satisfaction, pleasure, and relaxation.
So, when we listen to music we love, it can create a positive and soothing effect on our minds.
1.3. Individualized music selection matters
Not all music is created equal and musical preferences vary widely among people due to cultural, personal, and personality differences. And here arises the importance of personalized music selection.
A study by Thoma and colleagues (2013) explored how personalized music selection could play a vital role in decreasing stress levels.
It suggests that if a person chooses music that caters to their personal needs better, it works more effectively and helps in a greater reduction in stress.
However, some kinds of music like gentle instrumentals, nature sounds, and soft vocals are those choices that help everyone fight stress and leave a calming effect on the mind.
1.4. Benefits of music for various stressful situations
Apart from working as a daily stress-buster tool, music can also serve as an excellent coping mechanism for specific stressful situations.
Suppose you have a challenging work deadline or nerve-wracking presentation. In such stressful moments, the right music can help centre your thoughts, reduce anxiety, and enhance focus.
Another example is when you’re losing motivation to exercise but you really want to complete fitness goals. A piece of energetic and upbeat music can give you motivation and keep you engaged during a workout.
With the right tunes, the daily gym routine transforms from a potential source of stress to an enjoyable and even exhilarating experience.
Music has this incredible ability not just to relieve stress but also to inject enthusiasm into different parts of our lives. It indeed can turn even the most demanding tasks into enjoyable experiences.
Similarly, soft and soothing tunes like mantras, meditation music, and rain sounds set your mood to relaxation and thus help you have quality sleep.
Other Therapeutic Benefits of Music on the Mind and Body
2. Music Improves Sleep Quality
Whether you’re going through a challenging phase of life or just stressed out after a long day of work, overthinking doesn’t let you sleep.
It’s a struggle many of us face. And it’s no wonder that insomnia seems to be on the rise in busy modern life. And that’s where music comes to the rescue!
A study published by Cordi, Ackermann, and Rasch in 2019 revealed that soothing music before bedtime can significantly improve sleep quality and reduce insomnia symptoms.
The calming benefits of music create a peaceful environment that promotes better sleep.
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3. Mindful Music Listening to Speed up the Rehab Process
Yes! It can enhance the rehabilitation experience by addressing emotional and physical aspects of recovery, making the journey smoother and potentially expediting the process.
Music also can help manage pain by changing the perspective towards pain and we have proof for this.
In a 2018 study by Baylan et al., experiences of music, mindful music, and audiobook listening were investigated in the context of stroke recovery.
The result showed that engaging in mindful music listening helped the overall rehab process and speeded it up.
4. Benefits of Music in Helping Improve Memory
As you saw in the studies above, listening to music releases a chemical known as dopamine. This brain chemical is linked to feelings of reward and motivation. The boost in dopamine you get while enjoying your music can also help improve your ability to remember things.
There is an old study conducted by Jäncke in 2008. It showed the unimaginable potential of music to enhance memory functions.
The study said when you listen to music, your brain engages multiple areas, including those areas which are responsible for memory retrieval and encoding.
5. Music Enhances Workout Performance
You must have felt it before many times. Many of us use music to make our workouts enjoyable. Even gyms set up music systems.
Science has also proven this. The 2020 research study by Terry, Karageorghis, Curran, Martin, and Parsons-Smith showed that listening to music can improve your workouts and performance.
Their research looked at many studies to reach this conclusion and proved that music has a very positive effect on exercise.
Music during exercise time is no less than a workout buddy. It helps you endure longer, gets you in sync with your movements, and distracts you from tiredness.
6. Improves Focus & Productivity
In their 2021 study, Kiss and Linnell found that music is very much capable of improving focus during work hours. And when it improves your focus, your productivity automatically gets improved.
Yes, it happens because when you listen to your favourite background music, you become more attentive. And this increased attention keeps you more focused on your tasks.
This effect works especially well for those tasks which demand your full and dedicated focus for a long time.
Let me explain it here. Our mind is so clever and it is always thinking and thinking. And the more we try to focus on things, the more we get distracted. The music helps the mind to find a single focus on just one place.
7. Benefits of Music in Improving Learning Ability
According to the study by Lehmann and Seufert in 2017, listening to background music can actually boost your ability to learn.
The research worked on how music influences the learning ability of human beings. To make the research more accurate and helpful, they tried different perspectives.
It turned out that in certain situations music with a moderate level of complexity is the most helpful. It can help you learn better.
Engaging yourself in this kind of music doesn’t distract or disturb your brain, rather it keeps it engaged.
Are There Side Effects of Music?
While listening to music has many potential benefits for the human mind and body, it may be harmful too.
Yes, the same study by Lehmann and Seufert that suggests the benefits of music, also illustrates that music can have negative impacts on learning, depending on types of music and other factors.
In some cases, when background music is too complex or distracting, it can interfere with the learning process.
In simpler terms, it comes down to selecting the right music that fits the situation and task. This way, you can make the most of the benefits of music when you’re learning.
Apart from this, if you’re anyhow addicted to music, it hinders you from completing your tasks which negatively affects your learning & productivity.
From my experience, if you use headphones too much for music listening can damage your hearing. This practice led me to develop tinnitus. So, you should listen to music at a moderate volume and avoid the excess usage of earphones.
Also, some people find solace in sad songs when they are sad. It’s okay if you’re healing or dealing with your feelings. But always listening to sad music can make you depressed.
How to Integrate Music Listening Practices into Daily Life
As you saw above these scientific studies provide strong evidence supporting the healing effects of music on anxiety, stress, and overall mental health.
That’s why you should plan to incorporate it into your daily life to harness the magical benefits of music. Add music to your daily routine the way you don’t get distracted.
Here are 7 tips to enhance your well-being & find motivation daily through music.
1. Create a Different Work, Sleep or Study Playlist
Create various playlists for different purposes. For example, a playlist with your favourite songs and instrumental tracks gives you a calming effect on your mind when you sleep. This practice can help you unwind, clear your mind of worries, and improve the quality of your sleep. Similarly, a playlist of uplifting pieces of music for workouts.
You can also commute with relaxing sounds. Turn your stressful commute into a soothing journey with music & make it a more calming experience daily. Listen to sufi music or nature-inspired sounds during your journey to and from work. It can help you mentally transition and leave the day’s stress behind.
You can use online platforms or apps like Spotify to discover new music suited to your taste.
This handy collection on your music player or phone works as an instant relaxation therapy whenever you need it, whether it’s during your commute, work breaks, or while winding down after a long day.
2. Create A Calming Morning Ritual
Incorporating music into your morning routine can help you start your day on a positive note. Most mornings, I do this. As I wake up, I play uplifting tunes during my morning chores & exercises.
You should also try this while sipping your morning beverage, performing yoga, or getting on the home treadmill. This can set a serene tone for the rest of the day.
Plus, music inspires you to move more. If you’re not feeling like getting up from your bed or just being lazy, the energizing music beats make you get active and do some walking or just get on the elliptical cross trainer.
3. Engage in Active Listening
We listen to music according to our mood most of the time. But the next time you decide to listen to music, I want you to do it mindfully. This is called ‘active listening’.
When you pay attention to the rhythm, instruments, and emotions conveyed by the music, this kind of listening helps you get the therapeutic benefits of music.
You need to find a quiet and comfortable space for this. Then close your eyes and focus solely on the melodies.
4. Take Benefits of Music During Daily Activities
Most of us do this to turn boring tasks into enjoyable experiences. It helps reduce stress associated with daily responsibilities and creates a harmonious atmosphere.
If you don’t do it, try it now. Play calming tunes while cooking, cleaning, or doing household chores.
5. Do Musical/Mantra Meditation
There are several types of meditation according to different spiritual traditions. But, have you ever tried music with meditation? This is called mantra meditation and is popular in Hinduism & Buddhism.
During meditation sessions, choose instrumental mantras like the sound of Om or your other favourite mantra. My favourite one is ‘Om Namoh Bhagvate Vasudevaye’. Or you can also choose ambient tracks that resonate with you.
6. Discover New Tunes & Genres, and Languages
You should try doing it even if your preferred taste in music is in your language. It would keep your music experience fresh and exciting.
7. Benefits of Music During Breaks
This is very helpful if you work on a laptop all day. Take a break and go for a walk with a headset to recharge and reset your mind.
8. Attend Live Music Performances
Not many people do this, as most of us are into listening to playing their own music playlists. But you can try attending live music performances in your community or online whenever possible.
Experiencing music in a live setting can enhance emotional connections with the melodies and provide a unique form of relaxation.
Final Words on Benefits of Music for Mental Health
What’s life without music? I lack the motivation to start and end my day without listening to my favourite tracks.
Furthermore, both science and culture show the value and therapeutic powers of music in soothing anxiety, easing stress, and improving overall mental health.
However, to get the maximum benefits of music, you should find handy ways to access it and create your own playlists. And it’s become easier in the age of social media.
If you’re going through tension and anxiety here are helpful posts to improve your mental health:
- When & When Not to Control Your Anger (& How to Do It)
- Why Let the Things Bother You When You Can Ignore Them?
- 150 Wellness Tips to Improve Your Physical & Mental Health
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- Baylan S, McGinlay M, MacDonald M, Easto J, Cullen B, Haig C, Mercer SW, Murray H, Quinn TJ, Stott D, Broomfield NM, Stiles C, Evans JJ. Participants’ experiences of music, mindful music, and audiobook listening interventions for people recovering from stroke. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2018;Epub ahead of print. doi:10.1111/nyas.13618
- Jäncke L. Music, memory and emotion. J Biol. 2008;7(6):21. doi: 10.1186/jbiol82.
- Lehmann JAM, Seufert T. The Influence of Background Music on Learning in the Light of Different Theoretical Perspectives and the Role of Working Memory Capacity. Front Psychol. 2017;8:1902. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01902. PMID: 29163283; PMCID: PMC5671572.
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- Kiss L, Linnell KJ. The effect of preferred background music on task-focus in sustained attention. Psychol Res. 2021 Sep;85(6):2313-2325. doi: 10.1007/s00426-020-01400-6. PMID: 32748062; PMCID: PMC8357712.
- And my own experiences.