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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 September 18, 2020

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

Learning how to get in shape and set goals is important if you’re looking to live a healthier lifestyle and get closer to your goal weight. While this does require changes to your daily routine, you’ll find that you are able to look and feel better in only two weeks.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to get in shape. Although anyone can cover the basics (eat right and exercise), there are some things that I could only learn through trial and error. Let’s cover some of the most important points for how to get in shape in two weeks.

1. Exercise Daily

It is far easier to make exercise a habit if it is a daily one. If you aren’t exercising at all, I recommend starting by exercising a half hour every day. When you only exercise a couple times per week, it is much easier to turn one day off into three days off, a week off, or a month off.

If you are already used to exercising, switching to three or four times a week to fit your schedule may be preferable, but it is a lot harder to maintain a workout program you don’t do every day.

Be careful to not repeat the same exercise routine each day. If you do an intense ab workout one day, try switching it up to general cardio the next. You can also squeeze in a day of light walking to break up the intensity.

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If you’re a morning person, check out these morning exercises that will start your day off right.

2. Duration Doesn’t Substitute for Intensity

Once you get into the habit of regular exercise, where do you go if you still aren’t reaching your goals? Most people will solve the problem by exercising for longer periods of time, turning forty-minute workouts into two hour stretches. Not only does this drain your time, but it doesn’t work particularly well.

One study shows that “exercising for a whole hour instead of a half does not provide any additional loss in either body weight or fat”[1].

This is great news for both your schedule and your levels of motivation. You’ll likely find it much easier to exercise for 30 minutes a day instead of an hour. In those 30 minutes, do your best to up the intensity to your appropriate edge to get the most out of the time.

3. Acknowledge Your Limits

Many people get frustrated when they plateau in their weight loss or muscle gaining goals as they’re learning how to get in shape. Everyone has an equilibrium and genetic set point where their body wants to remain. This doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve your fitness goals, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you are struggling to lose weight or put on muscle.

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Acknowledging a set point doesn’t mean giving up, but it does mean realizing the obstacles you face.

Expect to hit a plateau in your own fitness results[2]. When you expect a plateau, you can manage around it so you can continue your progress at a more realistic rate. When expectations meet reality, you can avoid dietary crashes.

4. Eat Healthy, Not Just Food That Looks Healthy

Know what you eat. Don’t fuss over minutia like whether you’re getting enough Omega 3’s or tryptophan, but be aware of the big things. Look at the foods you eat regularly and figure out whether they are healthy or not. Don’t get fooled by the deceptively healthy snacks just pretending to be good for you.

The basic nutritional advice includes:

  • Eat unprocessed foods
  • Eat more veggies
  • Use meat as a side dish, not a main course
  • Eat whole grains, not refined grains[3]

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Eat whole grains when you want to learn how to get in shape.

    5. Watch Out for Travel

    Don’t let a four-day holiday interfere with your attempts when you’re learning how to get in shape. I don’t mean that you need to follow your diet and exercise plan without any excursion, but when you are in the first few weeks, still forming habits, be careful that a week long break doesn’t terminate your progress.

    This is also true of schedule changes that leave you suddenly busy or make it difficult to exercise. Have a backup plan so you can be consistent, at least for the first month when you are forming habits.

    If travel is on your schedule and can’t be avoided, make an exercise plan before you go[4], and make sure to pack exercise clothes and an exercise mat as motivation to keep you on track.

    6. Start Slow

    Ever start an exercise plan by running ten miles and then puking your guts out? Maybe you aren’t that extreme, but burnout is common early on when learning how to get in shape. You have a lifetime to be healthy, so don’t try to go from couch potato to athletic superstar in a week.

    If you are starting a running regime, for example, run less than you can to start. Starting strength training? Work with less weight than you could theoretically lift. Increasing intensity and pushing yourself can come later when your body becomes comfortable with regular exercise.

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    7. Be Careful When Choosing a Workout Partner

    Should you have a workout partner? That depends. Workout partners can help you stay motivated and make exercising more fun. But they can also stop you from reaching your goals.

    My suggestion would be to have a workout partner, but when you start to plateau (either in physical ability, weight loss/gain, or overall health) and you haven’t reached your goals, consider mixing things up a bit.

    If you plateau, you may need to make changes to continue improving. In this case it’s important to talk to your workout partner about the changes you want to make, and if they don’t seem motivated to continue, offer a thirty day break where you both try different activities.

    I notice that guys working out together tend to match strength after a brief adjustment phase. Even if both are trying to improve, something seems to stall improvement once they reach a certain point. I found that I was able to lift as much as 30-50% more after taking a short break from my regular workout partner.

    Final Thoughts

    Learning how to get in shape in as little as two weeks sounds daunting, but if you’re motivated and have the time and energy to devote to it, it’s certainly possible.

    Find an exercise routine that works for you, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and watch as the transformation begins.

    More Tips on Getting in Shape

    Featured photo credit: Alexander Redl via unsplash.com

    Reference

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