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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 December 2, 2018

        How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

        How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

        Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.

        The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.

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        The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.

        Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:

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        Review Your Past Flow

        Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?

        Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week.  That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.

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        Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern

        Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.

        Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.

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        Account for Big Picture Fluctuations

        Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?

        We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.

        Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?

          Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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