Remember how you felt while dancing in a club you heard the intro to your favorite song? If everything except your loud scream was silenced at the moment, your “Woohooo” could have made a wolf’s howl seem like a whisper. It’s similar to the elation of meeting your lover after months of long distance relationship. That’s the kind of excitement humans have around music.
Music has been around for over 40,000 years now and its tree of sounds is ever growing. It’s the fabric of our homogeneous world despite taking different forms in different regions. We have a playlist for gym, driving, crying, dancing, sex and what not. Music seems so essential to fuel up any emotion that’s running inside us provided we choose the right song. But the purpose of writing this piece is not to praise music for its mood enhancement qualities. Rather we’ll see if it has any positive impact on our mental well being.
Many of us play music in the background while doing monotonous activities like cleaning up the room or simply copy-pasting data entries( I play ambient sounds while doing the dishes). The aim is to just glide through the work without encountering the uneasyness of boredom as the work doesn’t require our full attention and poses no new challenges. And it seems to be work always. Well, there’s a study that supports this method of working.
In that study of older adults, researchers gave tasks that required reading and then recalling a short lists of words. Those who were listening to music outperformed those who worked in silence or with white noise. The same study tracked how quickly one could perform simple processing tasks — matching numbers to geometrical shapes — and a similar benefit showed up. People who worked with background music completed the task faster and more accurately. Hurray! It means our way is proven to be effective (smirking right now thinking of all those who told me that it’s distractive). The results of another study suggested that a focal musical activity can be a useful intervention in older adults to promote an enhancement in memory.
Anything that we work hard for must be someting that brings value to our lives. Take money for instance, if one received salary without working at all, would they work? Where’s the motivation to work? And how about working out! If staying fit and having a well toned body was the outcome of binging 24×7, would we ever go to the gym? Of course music cannot be substituted for any of our basic needs. But can it be psychologically as rewarding as food or money? Let’s get the answer from the results of a study done around it. This study, published by National Academy of Sciences (U.S) showed that people were more motivated to learn when they expected to listen to a song as their reward. Now I understand that the friday night music parties are an instigator for our weekly conscious burnout at work – music and dance are the ultimate prizes.
Now, we’ve been given sufficient evidences of music enhancing the brain capacity and acting as a motivator for working hard. But there’s another very powerful reason to applaud music for and that is it’s ability to keep our hearts healthy. The stress hormone Cortisol is released in our body when we are facing a challeging situation to prepare us for a fight-or-flight response. During this the heart rate increases and so does the blood pressure adding extra weight of work on an organ that works 24×7.
A study published on PubMed(U.S) in which participants were given a cognitive stressor task in presence of music showed that stress-induced increases in subjective anxiety, heart rate, and systolic blood pressure were each prevented by exposure to the music.
In another study published in PubMed Central (U.S), a statistically significant reduction
in depression levels was found over time in the musical intervention experiment where participants either passively listened to music or actively sang, played or improvised with instruments. This goes to show that music not only amplifies the feelings , but can also pull us out of a perpetual negative and pessimistic thought cycle. It’s that powerful!
How about Singing? Do you feel good after singing in the shower? Well singing has it’s own set of goodies to offer to our health. Biggest one being its boost to our immunity. A 2004 study measured Immunoglobulin A, body’s first line of defence against viruses, and cortisol levels in participants asked to sing and then later listen to choir music. The results showed that singing lead to increase in Immunoglobulin in participants while listening to choir music decreased the cortisol levels.This is a staggering find. It means every time I’m singing randomly around the house, I’m actually fighting the viruses and improving my immunity. That’s so empowering! I so deserve a savior role in the next Marvel movies franchise.
Disclaimer: So, please indulge in music as much as you want! Issued in public interest and welfare.