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Music Is Good For Your Mind And Body, Research Finds

Music Is Good For Your Mind And Body, Research Finds

Ever felt better after listening to music? Maybe it calmed you down, helped you sleep, study, or exercise better. It may even have eased your pain. Have you ever wondered why?

When magnetic response imaging (MRI) for the brain was first introduced, it was easy to see which areas of the brain are activated when music is heard and played. The auditory cortex gets going with processing pitch, rhythm, and melody. A part of the cerebrum brings up images associated with the sounds. The cerebellum will help you to move to the music or tap your fingers, if you feel so inclined. Watch the fascinating video here (4 minutes) where you can see MRI imaging at work and how the late Dr. Oliver Sacks’ brain reacted to Bach and Beethoven.

The brain is a highly complex organ and not yet fully understood. It is the control center for managing our behavior, mood, emotions, breathing, bodily functions, and mental processing. Music has been shown to have mostly a positive effect on the brain. Here are some ways that music can improve our quality of life for the better.

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Music may help to ease pain

“One good thing about music, is when it hits you, you feel no pain.” — Bob Marley

Imagine getting a painful shock in your fingers from a burn or a cut. Researchers at the University of Utah did that to 143 people while they were listening to music. They were asked to focus on the music and as they became more engrossed in the music, their pain became more bearable. You can read about more studies in this article: A Dose of Music for Pain Relief.

A study done at the University of Central Florida showed that music provided a significant reduction in pain when patients had to face walking again after surgery. Most research now suggests that music is effective in diverting or lessening pain signals before they get to the brain. This is useful to remember the next time you have headache or toothache – just turn on some of your favorite music.

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Music may relieve stress and anxiety

“We’ve found compelling evidence that musical interventions can play a health care role in settings ranging from operating rooms to family clinics.” — Prof. Levitin, McGill University Psychology Department

Research has homed in on how music can help to lower blood pressure and reduce stress. Studies have concentrated on patients who were about to undergo surgery. Music is often more effective in reducing stress than prescription drugs in these cases.

Patients who are in palliative care often have to face severe pain and deal with end of life issues. The staff at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital in Singapore did lots of live music therapy for their patients. They took part in singing, playing musical instruments, and song writing. Patients were much calmer and less stressed, they found.

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If you have neglected to use music for relaxation and stress management, go for some quiet classical music.

Music can help prevent mental decline

Frank Iacono is 103 and still plays the violin! He is an active member of the Providence Civic Orchestra. He believes that music has been one of the keys to his longevity. The secret is that both playing and listening to music involves many brain networks. But musicians who still play have an extra advantage in that they have to do some pretty fast mental processing to produce the music. This keeps the brain active and helps to stop mental decline. This is yet another example of the power of music and how it keeps us mentally active and engaged.

“Our study shows that even moderate levels of musical activity can benefit brain functioning.” — Ines Jentzsch, University of St. Andrews, Scotland

Music can lift your mood

Yuna Ferguson led a team of researchers at the University of Missouri in showing how music can lift mood and depression. They discovered that just by listening to upbeat music for a period of two weeks, patients reported an increase in happiness. Experts believe that music helps to generate dopamine, which is known as the feel-good chemical.

“There’s just something about music — particularly live music — that excites and activates the body.” — Joanne Loewy, co-editor of Music and Medicine

While nobody understands exactly how music works on the brain, the take-home message for all of us is to make use of a therapy which is almost free, has no side effects, and can be used anywhere and at any time.

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Time to reach for your headphones and get started!

Featured photo credit: cesk freixas:avui serem el món/Lali Masriera via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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