PSYCHOLOGICAL BENEFITS OF MUSIC
By Naveesha Kaur Shergill
If you are like me, chances are you listen to music every day. While music is a source of entertainment and pleasure, it also has numerous psychological
benefits. I’m sure many people agree with me when I say music has
influenced our thoughts, feelings and behaviours. For instance, when you
listen to a fast-paced rock anthem and feel super pumped up or when you
listen to a moving live performance and start tearing up. There’s no need to
deny it. We’ve all been there.
So how exactly does music affect us psychologically? Firstly, it improves cognitive performance. Research suggests that music that is played in the background, while the listener is primarily focused on another activity can improve performance on cognitive tasks, especially in older adults. One study found that playing more upbeat music led to improvements in processing speed while both upbeat and downbeat music led to benefits in memory. However, the efficacy of listening to music while studying may differ. Research suggests that it may help but it depends on a variety of factors that might include the type of music, the listener's enjoyment of that music and even how musically well-trained the listener may be. Personally, complex lyrics are a tad distracting which is why I prefer listening to instrumental tracks when getting work done.
Listening to music also has an impact on the human stress response, particularly the autonomic nervous system. Those who listen to music tend to recover quickly from a stressor. This was proven in one 2013 study where participants were asked to choose between three conditions before being exposed to a stressor and then taking a psychosocial stress test. Some participants listened to relaxing music, others listened to the sound of rippling water, and the rest received no auditory stimulation.
Similarly, music can help manage pain too. One study on fibromyalgia (widespread musculoskeletal pain) patients found that those who listened to music for just one hour a day experienced a significant reduction in pain. In the study, patients with fibromyalgia were assigned to either an experimental group that listened to music once a day for four weeks or a control group that received no treatment. At the end of the four-week period, those who had listened to music each day experienced significant reductions in feelings of pain and depression.
Moving on to one of the most surprising psychological benefits of music; it might be a helpful weight-loss tool! According to one study, people who ate at low-lit restaurants where soft music was played consumed 18 percent less food than those who ate in other restaurants. The researchers suggest that music and lighting help create a more relaxed setting. Since the participants were more relaxed and comfortable, they may have consumed their food slower and have been more aware of when they began to feel full. All the more reason to go on that candle-lit dinner date, am I right?
Music has the power to inspire and entertain, but it also has powerful psychological effects that can improve your health and well-being. Instead of thinking of music as pure entertainment, consider some of the major mental benefits of incorporating music into your everyday life. You might find that you feel more motivated, happy, and relaxed as a result.
Bottiroli, S., Rosi, A., Russo, R., Vecchi, T., & Cavallini, E. (2014). The cognitive effects of listening to background music on older adults: processing speed improves with upbeat music, while memory seems to benefit from both upbeat and downbeat music. Frontiers in aging neuroscience, 6, 284. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnagi.2014.00284
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