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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

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Robert Locke

Freelance writer

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

1. Breathe

The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

  • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
  • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
  • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

2. Loosen up

After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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3. Chew slowly

Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

4. Let go

Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

It’s not. Promise.

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Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

5. Enjoy the journey

Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

6. Look at the big picture

The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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Will this matter to me…

  • Next week?
  • Next month?
  • Next year?
  • In 10 years?

Hint: No, it won’t.

I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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8. Practice patience every day

Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

  • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
  • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
  • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

Final thoughts

Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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