We have all experienced the incredible power of music. The way it can restore us, energise us, relax us, just when we need it. But how exactly does it do this? The key to this is the ‘state’ that music induces in us. We have also all heard that Irish colloquialism “Look at the state of you!”. However, scientifically, when we speak of someone being in a ‘state’, we are referring very specifically to the condition, at that point in time, of their brain, their nervous system, their body chemistry, their levels of various hormones and neurotransmitters all of which directly affect their capacity to think, digest, heal and move around and function.
It is now well established that music is one of the only activities that activities, stimulates and uses our entire brain. The power of music to reduce stress is already very well established and this remains one the main reasons so many people regularly listen to music, “Music has a unique link to our emotions, so can be an extremely effective stress management tool. Listening to music can have a tremendously relaxing effect on our minds and bodies, especially slow, quiet classical music. This type of music can have a beneficial effect on our physiological functions, slowing the pulse and heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and decreasing the levels of stress hormones. Music, in short, can act as a powerful stress management tool in our lives”
Numerous modern scientific studies continue to reveal the huge impact and immediate impacts of music on our nervous system and body chemistry which are immensely beneficial for health and well-being.
More and more we are developing a clearer understanding of precisely how music affects our brains and bodies. Part of the story is how listening to music we like, or even anticipating listening to music we like, causes the release of four important ‘happy chemicals’, namely:
- Dopamine – This is our ‘feel good’ hormone. It also motivates us and inspires us to take action. More about the science of music and dopamine here…
- Oxytocin – Known also as the ‘Love hormone’, this hormone helps us to bond with other people and it also reduces Cortisol (the well know stress hormone). More about the science of music and oxytocin here…
- Serotonin – Due to the significance of serotonin on mood, many antidepressants focus on increasing serotonin. However, modern scientific studies also suggest that your mood can affect serotonin levels. The great news is that we can use music to change our mood and thereby our level of serotonin.
- Endorphins – These are our bodies’ natural painkillers. They can also reduce depression and anxiety. Numerous studies show that listening to music we like increases the release of our natural endorphins which is confirmed, in scientific studies, through increased pain thresholds.
And even more amazing are the recent studies that demonstrate that even listening to sad music can actually make us happy. The findings show that, rather than making us feel sad, listening to sad music is more likely to put us into a state of nostalgia where we feel tenderness and peacefulness!
What an amazing phenomena music is!