Whether you favor Beethoven or Slayer, there is one thing I think we can all agree on: music makes life better. But here is the proof as science would have it, and it’s not just in the ways we think.
A lot of us intuitively turn to relaxing music when we are feeling stressed or tired. Perhaps unsurprisingly, we’re not just imagining things. Significant research backs it up. In particular, slow, quiet classical music is suggested to have the most soothing effect. So if you have a hard time dealing with stress, compiling a playlist of some fitting classical songs could be a good idea. Or try listening to a relaxing, classical-style movie soundtrack. One study actually showed this type of music had more powerful effects on reducing anxiety than anti-anxiety drugs.
Do you work out? Have you always felt like you perform better when you listen to music? Odd as it might seem, there has actually been a lot of research done on this subject. And sure enough, one study shows that music can increase endurance by 15%. So if you’ve always felt like you lasted longer when listening to music, chances are that you’re right.
In addition, a Norwegian study shows that listening to classical music is the most beneficial when trying to increase endurance while spinning. One theory is that the continuity of a classical piece helps you focus, which in turn allows you to persevere longer. However, another study suggests that it’s not the type of music, but rather the speed of the music—the beats per minute (bpm)—that matter. According to the study, the optimal speed would be 125–140 bpm. This jog.fm page lists songs by their bpm. For optimal performance, maybe you should pick a classical piece, in case it actually does make a difference.
It might seem too good to be true, but some research suggests that there are measurable health benefits from simply listening to music. Ever wondered why music plus alcohol seems to breed bad decisions and odd behavior? Listening to music can also release dopamine, often dubbed “the pleasure chemical,” much like eating or having sex would. This is good news if you’re dieting! You could perhaps substitute the pleasure achieved through eating your comfort foods by indulging in your favorite music, with none of the negative health repercussions.
Ever thought people that sing in a choir look a bit…too happy? Well, as it turns out, it’s not just your imagination. Science actually explains what makes them so happy. And the best part of it is, even less-than-great singers experienced the same positive effects. What does this mean for you? Hopefully, that the next time you get the chance to have a sing-along with someone else, you take it, instead of worrying about how you will be received. It’s very likely to cheer you up! One of the studies listed also suggest that singing together increases bonding. And don’t worry, if you feel like you’re just too shy, you can stick to singing in the shower. But just make sure you do it a bit more often.
Research shows a noticeable correlation between learning to play an instrument as a child, and becoming successful later in life. So if you were always upset with your parents for forcing you to play the violin—or like me, the piano—take a minute to be grateful. I just thanked my father. One of my biggest regrets these days is that I never actually tried to learn to play the piano properly
Even as an adult. So don’t fret if you didn’t get to learn an instrument as a kid. Pick one now, and master it. The research shows this can increase your IQ by up to seven points. But let’s face it: that’s far from the best part. I mean, there’s the perceived social value of knowing how to play an instrument, and of course, just the pleasure of being able to play an instrument well. That’s pretty awesome too! Needless to say, I’ve started playing the piano again.
The interesting part about the research is that it shows music helps your brain develop in multiple areas, one of the most significant being your memory. So if you’re troubled by a bad memory, learning to play an instrument is something you should consider.
Classical music seems to be the biggest winner of the research. If you’ve been disenchanted until now, perhaps it’s the time to start exploring a few of the greats. While exactly why music has such an effect on us has yet to be completely explained, it’s hard to argue the fact that your life is better with music in it.
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