We put our music on without thinking about why we’re doing it most of the time. For some people it’s background noise, to muffle the silence if we’re alone at home (or if you’re me, to sing along to at the top of your lungs…). For others it’s because they want to forget their anxieties and be distracted. Others want to share music with their friends and to add atmosphere to a party or social occasion. And, of course, we need music to dance to.
by Au Kirk Caption: Music is a big part of most people’s lives
Whatever reason you have for listening to music, the way we access music has changed dramatically over the years, thanks to developments in technology. Take a look at all the different devices we’ve used to listen to music over the years, from the first phonographs and music rolls in the late 1800s through to the way we stream music from the internet today.
But when we listen to music, there may be lots of other benefits that we aren’t really aware of. Research into the effect music has on us has produced some interesting results over the years.
The classic time when people worry about what music they’ll have to hand is when women go into labour. Midwives encourage you to bring music into the labour room as it’s supposed to be good for helping get through the pain of contractions. Anecdotally, at least, women have said playing the right kind of music during labour helped them to relax and made the whole process of giving birth less stressful. And in a 2013 study of 60 people who had fibromyalgia, where they suffer severe musculoskeletal pain, participants were randomly assigned whether to listen to music once a day during a month period. The group that listened to music experienced fewer depressive symptoms and significant pain reduction in comparison to the control group. This is just one example where listening to music has reduced pain. Although researchers aren’t sure why music helps reduce pain, it may be linked to the fact that the body releases more dopamine when listening to music. There’s also the belief that pain and stress are closely linked, so if music helps people to relax and de-stress, the symptoms of pain will be reduced.
Music aids the memory
A classic thing for GCSE and A Level students to do is to listen to music as they study. Their parents may chastise them for getting distracted but music could actually improve a student’s ability to remember information. I know I had a “Keep Going” playlist when I was at uni – what it meant was that while the music was still playing, I wasn’t allowed to stop what I was doing or get distracted. Once the playlist had ended, I could take a break.
Research has shown that music stimulates the release of dopamine, which has been linked to motivation, which is then linked to learning and memory. In a study in 2008, stroke patients in rehabilitation were randomly assigned to either listen to their own choice of music, to an audio book or to nothing. They were then tested for quality of life, mood and a series of cognitive measures at one week, three month and six months following their stroke. The music group showed a significant improvement on verbal memory and a greater attention focus than the other groups, and they were also less depressed at the different measuring points.
Music improves our workouts
by Shivonne Du Barry Caption: The right tracks could improve the benefits you get from exercise
It’s long been common practice to turn on the tunes when going for a run and, of course, lots of exercise classes are done to music. But research has shown that playing music can definitely have a beneficial effect on exercise. In a study in the UK, 30 participants were asked to listen to motivational synchronised music, no music or non-motivational synchronised music while walking on a treadmill until they reached a point of exhaustion. Both music conditions increased the length of time people worked out, with the motivational music increasing the time significantly more when compared with controls.
In a different study, it was found that oxygen consumption levels were more efficient during exercise when people listened to music with a faster beat synchronised to their movement pattern than when the music was slower and didn’t synchronise with their movements.
I don’t tend to listen to my own music at the gym since I’m useless with getting my headphones to stay put and get tangled in wires! But the gym has music playing which really helps to distract me if I’m getting tired.
Whether anecdotal or scientific, the general indication seems to be that listening to music can definitely bring benefits in many different aspects of our lives.