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Why Giving Up Playing Music When You’ve Grown Up Is Bad For Your Brain

Why Giving Up Playing Music When You’ve Grown Up Is Bad For Your Brain

Do you know that every year, almost 100% of public school students in America begin an instrument if a school music program exists in their school? Yet over 50% of students simply quit a few years later.[1]

Even though parents encourage their children to take up a musical instrument, they never really treat music as important as other subjects. The benefits of learning maths and languages have always been greater than music in parents’ eyes, or even in children’s eyes as they grow up. So grown-ups just quit playing music.

An even more common phenomenon is that, as people grow up, they put off playing music as it doesn’t serve any concrete purpose in their hectic life in which work, vacation, friends and family times are of higher priority.

If you quit playing music because of one of the above reasons, you can’t miss the following findings explained by music educator, Anita Collins. She explained in a TED Ed video how playing instruments benefits our brains and what she says will change the way you look at music:[2]

Music stimulates multiple areas in our brains and strengthens our problem solving skills.

Neuroscientists try to understand how our brains work by monitoring them in real time. Different tasks like painting and reading have corresponding areas of the brain where activity can be observed.

When participants are listening to music while being observed, researchers see that multiple brain areas are being stimulated at once. Our brains process the sound elements like melody and rhythm and put everything together to let us feel the musical experience in just a split second.

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    Researchers also try to observe the brains of people who play music.

    While multiple areas of their brains also light up like music listeners’, playing music engages every area of the brain at once, especially the visual, auditory, and motor cortices.

      Playing music combines the brain areas which involve our linguistic and mathematical skills and creativity, utilizing both hemispheres of our brains.

      Therefore, playing music is said to increase the volume and activity in the brain’s corpus callosum. And the enhanced brains allow musicians to apply their strength to other activities including more effectively and creatively solving problems in different settings.

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      People who play music have great memory as they’re used to interlinking messages and emotions in music.

      Music is made up of messages and emotions and therefore, musicians are processing all this information as they play music.

      Musicians often have higher levels of executive function, a category of interlinked tasks that includes planning, strategizing, and attention to detail and requires simultaneous analysis of both cognitive and emotional aspects. This ability has an impact on how our memory systems work.

      Music playing comprises a number of memory cues that can trigger our brains to retrieve memories.[3] This maybe able to explain why musicians appear to be used to applying multiple cues when storing memories.

        Musicians tend to give each memory multiple tags, such as a conceptual tag, an emotional tag, an audio tag,and a contextual tag, like a good internet search engine; making creating, storing, and retrieving memories more quickly and efficiently

        Now you know how good it is to continue to play musical instruments, I think your next action is pretty clear, right?

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        You don’t need to be talented to play any instrument. Just keep playing.

        All you have to do is to take your first step and take out your instrument.

        What’s your forgotten instrument? The piano that’s always been in your living room? The violin that you’ve put under your bed? Or that guitar you played only over the summer when you were still in university? Pick it up, take it out and clean it.

        I’ve always been playing the piano and drums and I love playing these instruments, but not a lot of people know that I used to play the violin too. My violin was my long-forgotten instrument which I put under my bed.

        Last week, I took out my violin from the dusty box and all the memories of me practicing violin just came back. I cleaned it and tried to tune its sound. (I’d almost forgot how!) Then I picked up my bow, my poor bow with bow hair breaking out, and moved it over the strings…it sounded terrible.

        It sounded terrible because I hadn’t played it for so long, and it’s also because my violin and my bow were all out of maintenance. But all those memories motivated me to take up the instrument again.

        Watch more live music to light your fire.

        Watching or listening to live music has the magic to leave you feeling more motivated than ever to play your own. Every time after watching a live performance of any kind of music, I just want to play my piano when I get back home. And whenever I see the amazing performance by some great violinists, I want to practice my violin and get more skilful in it.

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        Look for musical scores of your favorite music to keep your fire burning.

        This always works. There must be some songs you really love and want to know how to play.

        Look for the musical score on the internet or in the library, that’s how you can keep the fire burning. When you have a goal — to learn to play your favorite songs beautifully, you’ll work hard for it.

        Of course, you have to pay attention to the difficulty level of the piece of music. Don’t push yourself too hard, take it slowly and try to work on the fundamentals first before challenging yourself for some difficult pieces.

        You can watch the whole video on TED Ed here to find out more about the amazing benefits of playing an instrument.

        Featured photo credit: TED Ed via ed.ted.com

        Reference

        More by this author

        Anna Chui

        Anna is a communication expert and a life enthusiast. She's the editor of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

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        Last Updated on March 25, 2020

        How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

        How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

        When it comes to living long, genes aren’t everything. Research has revealed a number of simple lifestyle changes you can make that could help to extend your life, and some of them may surprise you.

        So, how to live longer? Here are 21 ways to help you live a long life

        1. Exercise

        It’s no secret that physical activity is good for you. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy body weight and lowers your blood pressure, both of which contribute to heart health and a reduced risk of heart disease–the top worldwide cause of death.

        2. Drink in Moderation

        I know you’re probably picturing a glass of red wine right now, but recent research suggests that indulging in one to three glasses of any type of alcohol every day may help to increase longevity.[1] Studies have found that heavy drinkers as well as abstainers seem to have a higher risk of early mortality than moderate drinkers.

        3. Reduce Stress in Your Life

        Stress causes your body to release a hormone called cortisol. At high levels, this hormone can increase blood pressure and cause storage of abdominal fat, both of which can lead to an increased risk of heart disease.

        4. Watch Less Television

        A 2008 study found that people who watch six hours of television per day will likely die an average of 4.8 years earlier than those who don’t.[2] It also found that, after the age of 25, every hour of television watched decreases life expectancy by 22 minutes.

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        Television promotes inactivity and disengagement from the world, both of which can shorten your lifespan.

        5. Eat Less Red Meat

        Red meat consumption is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.[3] Swapping out your steaks for healthy proteins, like fish, may help to increase longevity.

        If you can’t stand the idea of a steak-free life, reducing your consumption to less than two to three servings a week can still incur health benefits.

        6. Don’t Smoke

        This isn’t exactly a revelation. As you probably well know, smoking significantly increases your risk of cancer.

        7. Socialize

        Studies suggest that having social relationships promotes longevity.[4] Although scientists are unsure of the reasons behind this, they speculate that socializing leads to increased self esteem as well as peer pressure to maintain health.

        8. Eat Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

        Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the risk of heart disease[5] and perhaps even Alzheimer’s disease.[6] Salmon and walnuts are two of the best sources of Omega-3s.

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        9. Be Optimistic

        Studies suggest that optimists are at a lower risk for heart disease and, generally, live longer than pessimists.[7] Researchers speculate that optimists have a healthier approach to life in general–exercising more, socializing, and actively seeking out medical advice. Thus, their risk of early mortality is lower.

        10. Own a Pet

        Having a furry-friend leads to decreased stress, increased immunity, and a lessened risk of heart disease.[8] Depending on the type of pet, they can also motivate you to be more active.

        11. Drink Coffee

        Studies have found a link between coffee consumption and longer life.[9] Although the reasons for this aren’t entirely clear, coffee’s high levels of antioxidants may play a role. Remember, though, drowning your cup of joe in sugar and whipped cream could counter whatever health benefits it may hold.

        12. Eat Less

        Japan has the longest average lifespan in the world, and the longest lived of the Japanese–the natives of the Ryukyu Islands–stop eating when they’re 80% full. Limiting your calorie intake means lower overall stress on the body.

        13. Meditate

        Meditation leads to stress reduction and lowered blood pressure.[10] Research suggests that it could also increase the activity of an enzyme associated with longevity.[11]

        Taking as little as 15 minutes a day to find your zen can have significant health benefits, and may even extend your life.

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        How to meditate? Here’re 8 Meditation Techniques for Complete Beginners

        14. Maintain a Healthy Weight

        Being overweight puts stress on your cardiovascular system, increasing your risk of heart disease.[12] It may also increase the risk of cancer.[13] Maintaining a healthy weight is important for heart health and living a long and healthy life.

        15. Laugh Often

        Laughter reduces the levels of stress hormones, like cortisol, in your body. High levels of these hormones can weaken your immune system.

        16. Don’t Spend Too Much Time in the Sun

        Too much time in the sun can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer. However, sun exposure is an excellent way to increase levels of vitamin D, so soaking up a few rays–perhaps for around 15 minutes a day–can be healthy. The key is moderation.

        17. Cook Your Own Food

        When you eat at restaurants, you surrender control over your diet. Even salads tend to have a large number of additives, from sugar to saturated fats. Eating at home will enable you to monitor your food intake and ensure a healthy diet.

        Take a look at these 14 Healthy Easy Recipes for People on the Go and start to cook your own food.

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        18. Eat Mushrooms

        Mushrooms are a central ingredient in Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s GOMBS disease fighting diet. They boost the immune system and may even reduce the risk of cancer.[14]

        19. Floss

        Flossing helps to stave off gum disease, which is linked to an increased risk of cancer.[15]

        20. Eat Foods Rich in Antioxidants

        Antioxidants fight against the harmful effects of free-radicals, toxins which can cause cell damage and an increased risk of disease when they accumulate in the body. Berries, green tea and broccoli are three excellent sources of antioxidants.

        Find out more antiosidants-rich foods here: 13 Delicious Antioxidant Foods That Are Great for Your Health

        21. Have Sex

        Getting down and dirty two to three times a week can have significant health benefits. Sex burns calories, decreases stress, improves sleep, and may even protect against heart disease.[16] It’s an easy and effective way to get exercise–so love long and prosper!

        More Health Tips

        Featured photo credit: Sweethearts/Patrick via flickr.com

        Reference

        [1] Wiley Online Library: Late‐Life Alcohol Consumption and 20‐Year Mortality
        [2] BMJ Journals: Television viewing time and reduced life expectancy: a life table analysis
        [3] Arch Intern Med.: Red Meat Consumption and Mortality
        [4] PLOS Medicine: Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review
        [5] JAMA: Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Women
        [6] NCBI: Effects of Omega‐3 Fatty Acids on Cognitive Function with Aging, Dementia, and Neurological Diseases: Summary
        [7] Mayo Clinic Proc: Prediction of all-cause mortality by the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory Optimism-Pessimism Scale scores: study of a college sample during a 40-year follow-up period.
        [8] Med Hypotheses.: Pet ownership protects against the risks and consequences of coronary heart disease.
        [9] The New England Journal of Medicine: Association of Coffee Drinking with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality
        [10] American Journal of Hypertension: Blood Pressure Response to Transcendental Meditation: A Meta-analysis
        [11] Science Direct: Intensive meditation training, immune cell telomerase activity, and psychological mediators
        [12] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
        [13] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
        [14] African Journal of Biotechnology: Anti-cancer effect of polysaccharides isolated from higher basidiomycetes mushrooms
        [15] Science Direct: Periodontal disease, tooth loss, and cancer risk in male health professionals: a prospective cohort study
        [16] AHA Journals: Sexual Activity and Cardiovascular Disease

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