Whether we listen, dance, or sing along to it, music can be a powerful tool in making our lives a little bit brighter. It can be a form of self-expression, escapism, and creativity – and the sheer variety of available means there’s something to suit everyone’s taste.
But beyond the obvious feelings of joy that we experience when immersed in our favourite music, research has shown the significant benefits that music can have on both our physical health and mental wellbeing too.
Music can improve memory and sleep quality, reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, and help lower the impact of conditions like depression and Alzheimer’s. Whatever way we decide to engage with it, the power of music cannot be underestimated.
With this in mind, here are 12 amazing benefits of introducing more music into your life.
1. Music can make you feel happier
Whether you’re listening to it or performing it, music has a unique ability to fill us and those around us with joy.
Research has shown that listening to music that we enjoy causes the brain to release dopamine – otherwise known as the ‘happy hormone’. Dopamine is responsible for creating positive feelings like happiness, joy, and excitement.
So next time you’re in need of an emotional boost, why not try listening to some of your favourite music – or maybe even create some yourself? For some inspiration, have a read of our articles 10 of the best Spotify playlists for every mood and 7 of the easiest instruments for adults to learn.
2. Music can enhance sports performance
Listening to music during a workout is not only an effective way to relieve boredom – it can also increase motivation and boost stamina. In particular, music that’s synchronized with a specific exercise has been shown to have positive physical and physiological effects.
In fact, this study found that people who listened to motivational music whilst running completed the first 800 metres of their run quicker than those who listened to calm music or no music at all.
So if you often find yourself wishing your workout would end, or are training towards a new goal, why not try exercising with some motivational background music? There are plenty of playlists tailored to different types of exercise Spotify. You can browse these on Spotify, or you might find the one you’re after in our article 10 of the best Spotify playlists for every mood.
3. Music can lower stress and improve health
Listening to music that you enjoy has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol – the stress hormone. And since stress is capable of either worsening or increasing the risk of various health conditions like heart disease, Alzheimer’s, obesity, depression, gastrointestinal problems, and diabetes, this is worth taking note of.
Taking part in music especially, rather than simply listening, has been shown to have even greater effects on health. In fact, one study found that people who actively participated in making music – for example by playing an instrument or singing – had significantly boosted immune systems than those who passively listened.
To help you get started, Spotify’s playlist titled The Most Relaxing Playlist in the World is made up of 86 songs that are thought to be good for reducing stress and anxiety. Most notably, it features Weightless by Marconi Union which – produced in collaboration with sound therapists – has been found to reduce anxiety in patients by a striking 65%.
If you’d like to read more tips about managing your stress levels, have a read of our article 7 tips for coping with stress and anxiety.
4. Music can improve sleep
However, research has shown that people who listened to classical music for around 45 minutes before bed experienced significantly better quality sleep. Much more so than those who stuck to their current bedtime routine, or who listened to an audio book instead.
The key is to listen to slow and peaceful music – after all, you can’t expect the same soothing effects from music genres like pop or dance.
If you’ve been struggling to sleep recently, the key could lie in listening to some Moazart or Bach before bed. Spotify’s Sleep playlist, which is full of gentle harmonies that’ll help you relax before you sleep, might be a good place to start. You might also find some good ideas in our article 7 ways to connect with classical music online.
Alternatively, for more tips on getting a better night’s rest, head over to the Sleep and Fatigue section of our site. Here we cover everything from insomnia, to sleeping apps and common age-related sleep conditions.
5. Music can reduce symptoms of depression
According to the World Health Organization, approximately 280 million people in the world struggle with depression. And around 90% of them also suffer from insomnia, as the two often feed into one another.
However, in the same way that classical music can promote better quality sleep, it has also been found to reduce symptoms of depression too. This study found that those who listened to classical music before going to sleep had significantly reduced feelings of depression, whilst those who didn’t listen experienced no change in their symptoms.
Again, the effects are largely down to the type of music that you listen to. For example, classical music and meditative sounds have been found to inspire and lift people up, while techno music and heavy metal tend to bring people down even more.
Spotify’s Classical Playlist is full of good options, and you might find even more inspiration in our article 7 ways to connect with classical music online. Alternatively, for further guidance on managing symptoms of depression, you might like to have a read of our article 10 things you can do to help yourself through feelings of depression.
6. Music can help you eat a healthier diet
If you’re looking for ways to eat healthier and curb your appetite, then the answer could partly lie in music.
According to science, listening to mellow music – such as calm jazz – and softening the lighting can lead people to consume fewer calories and enjoy their meals more. One study found that participants who ate in areas of softer lighting with mellow music consumed 18% less calories than those who didn’t, despite ordering the same food.
There’s also a connection between listening to relaxing music and eating slower. Widely known as mindful eating, this practice involves taking more time to properly engage with the food you’re consuming. Mindful eating has been shown to effectively reduce excess eating, which you can read more about in our article 10 everyday practices that can help you stay in the present moment.
Or, if you want to learn more about how to become more mindful and ways to implement the practice in everyday life, have a read of our Introduction to mindfulness.
7. Music can strengthen learning and memory
It’s long been established that music can help people learn and recall information better. However, what’s often not translated is that this depends entirely on a few particular factors – namely, what music you enjoy and whether or not you’re a musician.
This study, which required participants to memorise Japanese characters while listening to music, found that each person’s productivity was dependent on their personal musical taste and musical background.
The results showed that those who were musicians themselves memorised the characters better while listening to music which they described as neutral, but tested better listening to pleasurable, positive music. On the other hand, those who were not musicians learnt better whilst listening to positive music and tested better listening to neutral music.
So if you’ve been struggling to concentrate or memorise information recently, it might be worth playing around with different music to help you get in the zone. Considering what music you enjoy and whether you’re musically gifted yourself, could help you tailor the perfect learning environment.
8. Music can relax patients before and after having surgery
If you’ve ever had surgery yourself, or have sat alongside a loved one who has, then you’ll know that it can be a scary experience.
However, research has shown that music has the ability to help patients relax before and after surgery. For example, this review of 23 studies involving around 1,500 people found that playing soothing music helped to reduce heart rate, blood pressure, and anxiety in heart disease patients.
Its success has been so notable in fact, that studies are currently in the process of determining whether music could be even more effective than Midazolam (the drug used to relieve anxiety and produce loss of consciousness before and during surgery) in treating preoperative nerves.
Therefore, if you or someone you know is expecting surgery soon, it might be worth compiling a playlist of soothing music beforehand that they can listen to to help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.
9. Music can reduce pain
Around 15.5 million people suffer with chronic pain in the UK, which is characterised by a severe and persistent pain that continues for longer than 12 weeks – despite treatment and medication.
While various techniques and medicines are provided on a daily basis to help treat chronic pain, it’s possible that there’s also a place for music.
Research has shown that music therapy and pre-recorded music reduced pain more than standard treatments in cancer patients. It’s also been shown to reduce pain in intensive care and geriatric care patients. However, the music had to be either classical, meditative, or songs that the patient had chosen themselves.
10. Music can help Alzheimer’s patients to remember
Music has been shown to have an extraordinary effect on Alzheimer’s patients. As described by the University of California, this is because music is capable of affecting so many areas of the brain that it can sometimes stimulate pathways which are still healthy and working in Alzheimer’s patients.
Charity Music & Memory helps people with Alzheimer’s Disease and other age-related dementias to regain their memories by listening to their favourite songs. The result is often an astounding ‘awakening’.
To get an idea of the extraordinary effects that music can have on Alzheimer patients, have a watch of Music & Memory’s video. It shows Henry – a wheelchair-bound dementia sufferer who was unable to communicate – begin to sing Cab Calloway songs and joyfully reminisce about his life when he listens to music from his era.
11. Learning music can boost IQ and academic ability
Being able to play a musical instrument is a wonderful skill to have. Not only does it offer a sense of purpose and accomplishment, but it also brings a host of health benefits and can improve your social circle too.
Research has shown that taking part in music lessons is linked with higher academic performance and IQ in young children. However, it’s not just young children who can reap the benefits of learning a musical instrument.
Other studies have found that adult women who were musically trained outperformed those without music training on verbal memory tests.
If you’re seeking ways to boost your IQ and academic performance, or would simply like to learn a new skill, why start learning a musical instrument today? For information on how to get started, you might find our article 7 of the easiest musical instruments for adults to learn useful.
12. Music can help to keep the brain healthy in later life
Researchers at John Hopkins Medicine have said that since few things stimulate the brain in the way that music does, listening to or playing music is a great tool for keeping the mind sharp during the ageing process.
For example, one study involving healthy older adults found that those who had ten or more years of musical experience performed better on cognitive tests than those who had less or no music experience at all.
The reason behind this is that since learning to play an instrument can take time (sometimes years of practice) the process can create new connections within the brain, which might compensate for cognitive decline as people age.
Interestingly, methods like listening to music that your children or grandchildren listen to can also be especially effective. This is because new music challenges the brain in a way that familiar music doesn’t. So while you might not enjoy the music at first, the unfamiliarity will be forcing your brain to understand the new sounds.
Plato was right when he said, “Music and rhythm find their way into secret places of the soul.” From helping people reduce their stress and anxiety, through to rekindling forgotten memories and enhancing sports performance, music generally makes life brighter.
So why not start bringing more music into your life today? For inspiration on how to get started, check out our articles How to get involved with music from home, 10 of the best Spotify playlists for every mood, and 7 of the easiest musical instruments for adults to learn.
In what ways do you benefit from music? Have you tried anything new recently that’s music-related? We’d love to hear about your experiences. Joint the conversation on the music section of the Rest Less community forum, or leave a comment below.