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Music for Life – 12 Ways Music Benefits Emotional Health

Updated: May 15, 2019

In our previous Music for Life posts, we explored ways that music benefits students physically and intellectually (or academically.) This post we focus on a dozen ways that music encourages wellbeing. As wellness is holistic and intellectual, physical, and emotional health is integrated there is a lot of cross over between the different benefits of music study. See the previous posts, Music for Life ­–15 Ways Music Benefits Intellectual Health and Music for Life – 10 Ways Music Benefits Physical Health to get a fuller picture of ways that music study enriches the lives of those who study it. Remember, it’s never too late to begin music practice! These benefits are for children as well as adult learners, and even seniors benefit from learning music.

1. Increased Optimism – Engaging in musical activities has been shown to lead to a more optimistic, friendly, calm and overall positive outlook.

2. Induces A Meditative State or FLOW State – Music is unique in that it’s a “temporal art” meaning in takes place over time. While you may be able to glance at a painting or speed read a poem, you must allow music to enfold over time to truly appreciate it. The performer and the listener must allow themselves to enter into a “flow” state. This means that the listener or player is in a state of mind where he or she is totally immersed in focus, full-involvement and enjoyment in the process of music.

“Music is the literature of the heart; it commences where speech ends.” – Alphonse de Lamartine

3. Lowers Levels of Depression – Exposure to and participation to music has been shown to lower the production of cortisol, the stress hormone. The genre or style of the music does not matter as long as the individual enjoys the musical experience.

4. Decreases Levels of Anxiety – As we discovered earlier, music is a temporal art. When we become anxious we are living in “what ifs.” When we engage in musical activities, we are living in the “now.” Once we enter this attitude, our anxiety level will drop.

5. Better Emotional Understanding – Music has been shown to increase our ability to empathize with others. We are able to see the world through another person’s eyes when we understand their music. We are also better able to understand our own emotions through music. Historically, the arts are a means by which we explore our intrapersonal (within) and interpersonal (with others) relationships.

"Music is very powerful; it crashes down walls….it can knock down barriers quicker than any UN meeting, any NATO meeting. That's why rock and roll has been so powerful. I watched a band from Liverpool change the world. As far as I'm concerned, what else has done that?” – Jenny Boyd

6. Increased Coping Skills and More Resiliency ­– Music study encourages students to work towards a goal over time. Inevitably, this leads to achieving successes and finding themselves at disappointing failures. However, failing and learning to learn from failure leads to resiliency. Positive Psychology researchers have found that resiliency is the single most important factor in an individual’s eventual success. Those who meet their goals and succeed are not merely lucky or better than those who do not, they are those to learn how to stick to it until the end.

7. Better Emotional Memory – Music evokes memory. When we hear a song, we are taken back to the place where we first heard that song. Musicians have been shown to have more grey matter in the portion of the frontal cortex known to accommodate the neural networks that are involved in memory processes. Music activates the entire limbic system which controls memory and how we process emotions.

8. More Compassion – With better the emotional memory and in depth emotional understanding, it makes sense that those who understand music have a deeper understanding of what it means to be compassionate.

“Music is one of the most powerful things the world has to offer. No matter what race or religion or nationality or sexual orientation or gender that you are, it has the power to unite us.” ­– Stephanie "Lady Gaga" Germanotta

9. Better Sleep – Music has been shown to calm our parasympathetic system. Older adults who listen to music have been found to fall asleep faster and for longer periods of time. The best choices are pieces which fall between 60 – 8