Music is a massive part of our lives as it is in the background wherever we go, whatever we watch, and it will always have an effect on us. Music can bring back key memories of both good and bad events., It also brings us excitement and calm, makes us want to dance or sleep and we find rhythm and music in most things we do. Even typing this has a slight beat and lilt to it.
Listening to music is something we do to help us with our mood. Sad songs or slow dirges help process our feelings after a break-up, whilst up beat music motivates us at the gym or to do that run. Soothing music helps us sleep and combined with meditation or mindfulness can help us calm our anxiety and fears down. Film makers and advertisers use music to create atmosphere in a scene or make us feel positive about the product, and shops use low level music to create the right atmosphere to sell us what they want us to buy.
The brain is affected by music and recent research has shown that dopamine (a happy hormone) is released when we listen to the music we like. Our brain waves align with a strong beat bringing sharper concentration and more alert thinking, whereas a slower tempo promotes a calm, meditative state.
Our hearts also align to the beat of music that we are listening intently to, and music that has the beat similar to that of a heart beat brings comfort, as on an unconscious level it takes us back to the rhythm of our mother’s heart while we were in the womb.
Finally, our breathing also starts to match musical beats combined with a change in our heart rate and our relaxation response is activated. This response calms down our flight or fight reactions, reducing adrenaline and cortisol production.
So, knowing that different kinds of music will have different affects on our mental health. Classical music aids learning and memory, while Rap encourages emotional development, creativity, learning, communication, and motor functioning whereas Jazz enhances the release of calming chemicals like melatonin and heavy metal enhances our sense of identity and helps with bonding.
Music increases our ability to learn and remember when it is played in the background. So, when the kids have Spotify on when revising it is actually helping them!
It reduces the stress levels in us really quickly, by soothing the autonomic nervous system, which is the system that regulates our involuntary bodily processes like heartbeat and digestion. So, it brings our bodily functions back in line if they have been reacting to anxiety and stress hormones.
Music helps with insomnia, and research has shown that calming or classical music helps the brain relax and stop overthinking, so sleep becomes easier.
It so much easier to exercise to music, whether that’s running, gym work or classes. Music is used to motivate us to be do more. The faster the music the more the heartbeat increases, so more blood and oxygen gets to our muscles and the more exercise speed or endurance is possible. Hence, the need for workout music that matches the exercise you are doing., Music for aerobics would be different to music for yoga or again running.
Music helps with self-awareness, a key area for dealing with our mental health. If we write music or play it, we become every aware of what we are doing with our mind and body. It increases the mind body connection and can even help with our manual dexterity.
Music has now become part of therapy and is used to help with physical and mental health disorders. Trained therapists use music to help us overcome physical, emotional, intellectual, and social challenges. Music is used to help women in labour, to reduce pain for people with fibromyalgia and to calm people with Alzheimer’s.
We can all use music to help us, we can download play lists for exercise, motivation, walking, running, relaxing and studying. Listen to all kinds of music to see what works for you.
- Visit Elaine’s counselling website for more information: https://www.nottingham-counselling.co.uk/