IF you love listening to music, you’re in good company. Charles Darwin once remarked: “If I had my life to live over again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week.” Albert Einstein declared: “If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician.” Jimi Hendrix called music his “religion.”
Music is said to be food for the soul and, according to Joshua Bolarinwa, a medical doctor at the University Teaching Hospital, Ilorin (UITH), in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), listening to it often is good for one’s health.
“Listening to music is a good antidote for reducing stress, which is responsible for over 60 per cent of the diseases common to most patients,” he said.
The power of music:
It heals chronic back pain
Music works on the autonomic nervous system, the part of the nervous system responsible for controlling blood pressure, heartbeat and brain function – and also the limbic system – the part of the brain that controls feelings and emotions. According to one piece of research, these systems react sensitively to music.
When slow rhythms are played, blood pressure and heartbeat slow down which helps to breathe more slowly, thus reducing muscle tension in the neck, shoulders, stomach and back. Experts say apart from physical tension, music also reduces psychological tension in the mind.
In other words, when one feels pain, frightening, frustration and anger tense up hundreds of muscles in the back. Listening to music on a regular basis helps the body to, however, relax physically and mentally and thus prevent back pain.
It improves workout
Experts say listening to music during exercise can give one better workout in several ways. Scientists claim it can increase endurance, boost mood and distract from any discomfort experienced during the workout.
Dr Robert Herdegen of America’s Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia looked at the effects of 12 men riding a bicycle for 10 minutes while listening to music one day. He compared it to the same men riding bicycles without music for 10 minutes the following day.
On the days the men exercised listening to music, they travelled 11 per cent further, compared to the days they did not listen to music.
Researchers also found that men’s levels of exertion were at their lowest when listening to music. Other studies show that listening to music releases endorphins – natural ‘feel good’ hormones that lift mood and give motivation to carry on longer with exercise.
It helps regain memory loss
For many people suffering from memory loss, the spoken language has become meaningless. Music can help patients remember tunes or songs and get in touch with their history. This is because the part of the brain which processes music is located next to memory. Research shows that people with memory loss respond best to music of their choice.
It makes one happy
“I don’t sing because I’m happy; I’m happy because I sing,” says William James. Research proves that when one listens to music of choice, the brain releases dopamine, a “feel-good” neurotransmitter. Valorie Salimpoor, a neuroscientist at McGill University, injected eight music-lovers with a radioactive substance that binds to dopamine receptors after they listened to their favorite music. A PET scan showed that large amounts of dopamine were released, which biologically caused the participants to feel emotions like happiness, excitement, and joy. So the next time you need an emotional boost, listen to your favourite tunes for 15 minutes. That’s all it takes to get a natural high!
It lowers stress and improves health
“I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from,” says Billy Joel.
Listening to music one enjoys decreases levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body, which counteracts the effects of chronic stress.
It helps to sleep better
“Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” – Berthold Auerbach. A study showed that students who listened to relaxing classical music for 45 minutes before turning in slept significantly better than students who listened to an audiobook or did nothing different from their normal routine. If you’re having trouble sleeping, try listening to a little Bach or Mozart before bedtime to catch some sleep.
It reduces depression
“Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness,” says Maya Angelou.
More than 350 million people suffer from depression around the world. A whopping 90 per cent of them also experience insomnia. A sleep research found that symptoms of depression decreased significantly in the group that listened to classical music before bedtime, but not in the other two groups. Another study by Hans Joachim Trappe in Germany also demonstrated that music can benefit patients with depressive symptoms, depending on the type of music. Meditative sounds and classical music lifted people up, but techno and heavy metal brought people down even more. The next time you feel low, put on some classical or meditative music to lift your spirits.