Music as a Stress Reliever
Now more than ever, many of us are searching for ways to relax, unwind, and alleviate stress. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by playing a musical instrument. Music has been used for hundreds of years to restore harmony between the mind and the body. In recent decades, researchers have measured health-related advantages of music, particularly as they relate to stress reduction and relaxation induction.
What’s the science behind this?
According to an article written by Nicole Leatherman, music connects with the automatic nervous system—brain function, blood pressure, and heartbeat—and the limbic system, where your feelings and emotions live.
If you feel threatened, your nervous system releases stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. Listening to music can switch the stress response to “off” and help your mind and emotions recover from stress faster than they would without music.
When you play an instrument or sing, your body releases endorphins, which are the chemicals that make you feel happy.
A study led by Dr. James Hudziak, professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont College of Medicine, showed that playing an instrument helped children, ages 6 to 18, reduce feelings of anxiety and gain greater control over their emotions.
Another study—this one focused on cancer patients—concluded that singing can lower cortisol levels and improve mood through the release of endorphins.
According to an article published by musicnotes.com, there are several mental and emotional benefits that come from playing musical instruments.
Emotional Benefits From Playing Music
Playing music is like doing a workout for every part of your brain. It helps improve your mental performance and memory. There’s even evidence that music can help a patient’s brain recover from a stroke, as well as slow the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Using your fingers, hands, and feet in a rhythmic manner for a sustained amount of time, while also being conscious of playing the correct tones, can be a challenge for even the most coordinated people. Over time though, playing music refines your motor skills that go beyond the hand-eye.
Learning an instrument requires practice, of course! But more specifically, it requires consistency and routine. Figuring out how to fit practice into your busy schedule and really stick to it helps you develop better time management and organization skills.
Reading music helps strengthen your ability to process information by creating new connections between the synapses in your brain. As a result, reading and absorbing information from other sources becomes a lot easier.
Learning music doesn’t just improve your ability to hear details; it also makes you better at listening. Whether you’re practicing on your own or playing with other people, you have to listen for timing, expression, and whether you’re in tune. This can make you a better listener even in everyday conversations as well.
Focus is a necessary part of learning an instrument. Improving your musical skills forces you to use all the parts of your brain involved in concentration, making you better able to concentrate in other life situations.
Whether you’re writing your own piece of music or playing someone else’s, music allows you to express yourself in new ways. You also get to be creative when choosing your own unique style and genre.
Playing music can help with stress, insomnia, and depression because it acts as an outlet for difficult emotions. It can be a form of self-soothing in tough situations, and a healthy distraction from a stressful day.
There’s nothing like the feeling of finally mastering one of your favorite songs! Setting a goal, putting in the work, and eventually reaching that goal gives you a strong sense of achievement. It will improve your confidence in other areas of life in the process.