Music touches everyone in one way or another. We all have a genre or a particular song that brings a smile to our faces and puts a certain spring in our step. Music even has the ability to virtually transport us to a happier place and time in our lives. As if this were not great enough, music has the power to offer so much more for the betterment of our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.
When we listen to our favorite music, our moods are lifted. A physical transformation is occurring in our brains that allows this to happen. Music lifts our moods by reducing the production of stress hormones and promoting the release of “feel good” hormones known as endorphins. The job of endorphins is to elevate our mood, lower anxiety, depression, and, in general, promote “happy” thoughts. A few of the health benefits of endorphins are lowering of heart rate and blood pressure, reducing our rate of breathing, and boosting the immune system. By doing so, music can lower the risks of stress-induced conditions such as depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, and even cancer, to name a few.
Research shows that brain wave activity while listening to music helps the brain to shift more easily on its own when the need arises. This means music can attribute to lasting benefits to one’s state of mind by simply thinking about their favorite music.
But that is not the end of the “benefits of music” story. Additionally, music has the ability to promote movement, ease muscle tension, build strength, and can sometimes help control pain. We can see these benefits in the elderly who are exposed to music or music therapy. For example, music therapy in assisted living and memory care facilities is particularly beneficial for many reasons. The elderly in facilities may feel disconnected from family, loved ones, and their normal routines. They often worry about their health (increased physical inactivity), finances, loss of independence, and as a result can experience anxiety, among other things. Music therapy can help reduce these many areas of stress not only by releasing those happy endorphins, but also by promoting movement (hand-clapping, foot-tapping, singing, and even dancing, if able). In fact, movement can help promote muscle strength and improve balance issues. Further, many facilities use music therapy to help stroke patients learn to walk again. The power of music’s ability to improve an individual’s mental and physical state, especially in the elderly, is a resource worth engaging in regularly. So let’s unleash the power of music and (for those of us of a certain age group), - play it again, Sam!
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