Music is ubiquitous. Like a constant companion, music makes its presence known in nearly any situation. It could be loud and happy, the bass pumping through veins, radiating outwards towards a crowd jumping in time with the beat. It could be mellow, soft fingers gliding across ivory keys, gently riding the breeze as it passes between eager ears. It could be stirring, like bubbles in an agitated bottle of exquisite champagne, slowly building into a crescendo before finally, triumphantly cresting into a cacophony of brass and strings and trumpets. It could be sad, like losing a friend, like missing a loved one, like a lonely table waiting for someone to sit down.
Music has a way of affecting human emotions—the angry drums of heavy metal music pair quite well with releasing pent-up anger. Faster beats have a way of encouraging alertness. Faster beats make one want to dance. Upbeat music means happy music, something to combat a low mood. It matters not which music any one person finds pleasing: the classics composed by Mozart and Beethoven, contemporary piano pieces by Natalia Padilla, or the more upbeat songs by the king of pop. What matters is how music affects the mind and the soul.
Scientists have long been studying the effects of music on the human body. How music can make someone happy, fuel their anger, or deliver them safely into the arms of Morpheus in peaceful slumber.
Effects of music on the body
- Reduced stress levels
Cortisol is a hormone that the human body produces when subjected to elevated stress levels, both physical and emotional. The higher the stress levels, the more cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands and released into the body. Cortisol can have a negative effect on the body. It causes elevated blood pressure, increased heart rate, and levels of agitation.
Emotionally, stress can cause angry outbursts from a once docile or easy-going person. It can also cause depression and anxiety when exposed to constant stress for an extended period. Physically, stress can cause chronic pain due to the fight or flight response being triggered in the body. Some people attribute stomach ulcers and elevated stomach acid levels to stress.
What music can do for stress:
Classical music has been found to have a calming effect on people. Listening to music can trigger the release of endorphins, one of the happy hormones the human body produces. Music also lowers cortisol levels and, as a result, lowers blood pressure and heart rate.
- Reduces pain
As improbable as it sounds, music has been shown to reduce pain in patients who have fibromyalgia. One study showed that people diagnosed with fibromyalgia when listening to calming, familiar music that they chose reported feeling reduced pain levels. Another study that involved having the patient listen to music while under anesthesia reported that those patients experienced reduced post-op pain.
- Improves concentration
Music can improve concentration. Music does this by blocking out outside noise that might cause distraction. Different types of music stimulate different types of brain waves. Classical music has been known to produce calmness but might also cause people to feel sleepy. Jazz can improve creativity, while EDM music can help make working out more fun and pass quickly at the same time.
- Reduce anxiety and help in grounding
Music has a calming effect. The central nervous system has involuntary parts: one controls the fight or flight response (sympathetic), and the other control things while the body rests (parasympathetic). In times of stress, the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are under much strain, and it is hard to keep calm. However, specific genres of music can set things right.
Classical and ambient music is suitable for reducing stress and anxiety. Urban or rap music is good for motivation. EDM played in clubs is suitable for movement and exercise. All three can contribute to reduced stress, and reducing stress can reduce anxiety.
Music is even used in therapy. Patients who are agitated or depressed or suffer from anxiety, when subjected to calming music or music they chose for themselves, experienced an alleviation of their anxiety and sadness.
Music has a lot of therapeutic benefits. It can bring high levels of stress and anxiety down, help people concentrate better, and reduce pain. It can help modify behavior and serve as motivation to keep moving.