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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 13, 2019

        How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

        How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

        Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

        You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

        Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

        1. Work on the small tasks.

        When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

        Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

        2. Take a break from your work desk.

        Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

        Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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        3. Upgrade yourself

        Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

        The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

        4. Talk to a friend.

        Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

        Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

        5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

        If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

        Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

        Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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        6. Paint a vision to work towards.

        If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

        Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

        Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

        7. Read a book (or blog).

        The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

        Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

        Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

        8. Have a quick nap.

        If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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        9. Remember why you are doing this.

        Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

        What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

        10. Find some competition.

        Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

        Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

        11. Go exercise.

        Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

        Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

        As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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        Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

        12. Take a good break.

        Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

        Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

        Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

        Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

        More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

        Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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