How Christmas Music (or Any Music) Can Make You Healthier
Music is one of those things that is extremely personal.
Some people love country music, while others despise it.
Others love Reggae, whereas another group finds it reprehensible.
And some people listen to Christmas music in July and other people can’t stand hearing it any time of the year.
The purpose of this article isn’t to tell you what kind of music you should listen to (although in some instances, it does matter), but to inform you of the real, medically sound benefits of listening to music.
We are designed to hear sounds and to interpret them to be meaningful in some way. Turns out that sometimes, the meaning of sounds as music can have some pretty pronounced effects on how you feel.
There are more than a dozen known benefits of listening to music, and I’ll show you what they are below.
Why We Love Music
The facts of human biology are that our brain and nervous system are built to distinguish the difference between random noise and music.
It’s not like we just notice the difference, we are actually programmed (in a sense) to respond to the rhythm and repetition of tones and tunes.
I have my own theories of why this is true, as explained by my belief in God. However, even if you don’t ascribe to the same theories as me, you can’t deny the amount of evidence surrounding the benefits of music.
1 – It Can Boost Mental Performance:
You’ve probably heard that if you want to study and actually learn what you’re studying you should listen to classical music.
Turns out that this is a well-documented benefit of music.
“The most highly publicized mental influence of music is the “Mozart effect.” Struck by the observation that many musicians have unusual mathematical ability, researchers at the University of California, Irvine, investigated how listening to music affects cognitive function in general, and spatial-temporal reasoning in particular. In their first study, they administered standard IQ test questions to three groups of college students, comparing those who had spent 10 minutes listening to a Mozart piano sonata with a group that had been listening to a relaxation tape and one that had been waiting in silence. Mozart was the winner, consistently boosting test scores. Next, the investigators checked to see if the effect was specific to classical music or if any form of music would enhance mental performance. They compared Mozart’s music with repetitive music by Philip Glass; again, Mozart seemed to help, improving spatial reasoning as measured by complex paper cutting and folding tasks and short-term memory as measured by a 16-item test.”
2 – It May Make You Happier:
I talk frequently about balancing hormone levels, and especially, how to get stress hormones under control.
Studies seem to support the claim that listening to certain kinds of music may decrease your levels of the primary stress hormone, cortisol.
Perhaps even more amazing is that if you joined along in the music making it had an even greater impact on your mental well-being.
That doesn’t mean you have to play an instrument to get the effect, tapping your feet or bobbing your head is enough.
And as Life Hacker notes:
“Valorie Salimpoor, a neuroscientist at McGill University, injected eight music-lovers with a radioactive substance that binds to dopamine receptors after they listened to their favorite music. A PET scan showed that large amounts of dopamine were released, which biologically caused the participants to feel emotions like happiness, excitement, and joy.”
3 – It May Help With Appetite Control (And Make You Enjoy Your Meal More)
I’m in favor of eating just enough to keep your body functioning, but not so much that it causes your waistline to balloon.
The good news here is that listening to music may help curb cravings.
A study out of Cornell University concluded that if you played music and softened the light while you ate it actually could lead to consuming fewer calories and also enjoying your meals more.
Music has the ability to enhance an activity you do daily while also making it less damaging in the process.
4 – It May Help Reduce How Much You Feel Pain
Bob Marley famously said, “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”
It turns out that music may actually reduce pain.
Cancer patients receiving care at Drexel University were asked to either receive music therapy and/or pre-recorded music to see how it compared to conventional treatments and were shocked to discover that the standard treatments were less effective at reducing pain than music was.
In another area of research on how music affects pain levels people placed in an intensive care ward as well as geriatric care patients were shown to benefit from pain reduction when they listened to classical music, meditative music, or songs of the patient’s choosing.
Is music as good as a pain pill?
Maybe, maybe not, but at least it doesn’t have side effects.
5 – It May Help Treat Some Kinds of Mental Illness
We all know how important mental health is to total health, and we also know that we’re in the midst of a “mental health crisis.”
This is why it’s great to hear that listening to music can help treat some forms of mental health.
Researchers from the Department of Psychology, McGill University discovered that when you listen to music it can lead to the release of neurochemicals known to play a role in brain function and mental health.
- Dopamine, a chemical associated with pleasure and “reward” centers
- Serotonin and other hormones related to immunity
- Oxytocin, a chemical that fosters the ability to connect to others
We know that it affects these neurotransmitters but we don’t know exactly how to use it to acutely treat mental health issues.
That being said, there are studies to show that listening to music can lower anxiety and improve symptoms of depression.
“Studies have shown that people in rehab after a stroke are more relaxed once they’ve listened to music for an hour.
Similar studies indicate that music blended with nature sounds help people feel less anxious. Even people facing critical illness feel less anxiety after music therapy.”
Plus It Does This Too!
There are a few other documented effects of music
6 – Music Increases Verbal Intelligence
7 – Music Raises IQ and Academic Performance
8 – Music Helps You Sleep Better
9 – Music Enhances Running Performance
Along with many more documented effects.
And again, Christmas music is known to help with some of these areas (like being happy), so if you’re the kind of person who wants to listen to it in July, you’re probably doing well for your mental health.