Music can improve mood, decrease pain and anxiety, and facilitate opportunities for emotional expression. Research suggests that music can benefit our physical and mental health in numerous ways. Music therapy is often used by board-certified music therapists to enhance conventional treatment for a variety of illnesses and disease processes – from anxiety, depression and stress, to the management of pain and enhancement of functioning after degenerative neurologic disorders.
Max Lerman, Hospice and Palliative Care Music Therapist from Spiritual Care and Music Therapy at NorthShore University Health System in Illinois, highlights some of the benefits music has on health and well-being:
- It’s heart healthy. Research has shown that blood flows more easily when music is played. It can also reduce heart rate, lower blood pressure, decrease cortisol (stress hormone) levels and increase serotonin and endorphin levels in the blood.
- It elevates mood. Music can boost the brain’s production of the hormone dopamine. This increased dopamine production helps relieve feelings of anxiety and depression. Music is processed directly by the amygdala, which is the part of the brain involved in mood and emotions.
- It reduces stress. Research has found that listening to music can relieve stress by triggering biochemical stress reducers.
- It relieves symptoms of depression. When you’re feeling down in the dumps, music can help pick you up – much like exercise.
- It stimulates memories. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, but music therapy has been shown to relieve some of its symptoms. Music therapy can relax an agitated patient, improve the mood and open communication in patients.
- It manages pain. By reducing stress levels and providing a strong competing stimulus to the pain signals that enter the brain, music therapy can assist in pain management.
- It eases pain. Music can meaningfully reduce the perceived intensity of pain, especially in geriatric care, intensive care or palliative medicine.
- It helps people eat less. Playing soft music in the background (and dimming the lights) during a meal can help people slow down while eating and ultimately consume less food in one sitting.
- It increases workout endurance. Listening to those top workout tracks can boost physical performance and increase endurance during a tough exercise session.
Whether you’re caring for yourself or caring for another, adding music to your day has benefits that go far beyond just putting a spring in your step. So go ahead…turn up the volume!