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Science-Backed Benefits of Listening to Music

                                                                                  “One good thing about music is when it hits you, you feel no pain.”

                                                                                                                           Bob Marley


I am very excited to reveal the many facts that I have gathered with regards to the health benefits of listening to music! I decided to write this piece to finally converge the fields of art and science in order to explain this interesting phenomena that may seem intuitive. For most of us music lovers, we listen to music on a pretty regular basis. Music is a part of our everyday lives. Whether we are talented musicians, listen to tracks to motivate us to work, to synchronize the strides of our sprint to up-beat tunes, or to further reinforce a depressive state by listening to sad music, we each possess a unique perspective of how music impacts us and we each prefer different “flavours” of music. Music continues to thrive and evolve into various genres, but it equally holds significant value from the past as seen in more “Classical” songs.

As a science student, I searched academic literature to reveal legitimate facts of the health benefits of music.


Music provides significant neurobiological effects (1)

This particular source has demonstrated through functional neuroimaging that music-evoked emotions are associated with areas of the brain responsible for emotions such as reward, motivation and pleasure. Controlled clinical studies have also found significant benefits with the use of music for depression and anxiety. Perhaps music can be used as a naturally accessible tool to numb feelings of pain as it impacts pleasure centers of the brain. It can abrogate the urge of helplessly resorting to negative coping strategies, such as excessive drinking, eating unhealthily and other damaging behaviours and can be used to reverse the feelings of depression or anxiety.


Music therapy! (2)

This study was carried out on patients within the intensive care unit (ICU). The ICU can be a stressful scene for patients, especially under mechanical ventilation which has been referred to as “inhuman” and “anxiety producing.” This accompanying anxiety can be detrimental to patients in the recovery period. This study showed music listening tends to be a reliable additional treatment to those who are critically ill. It can “abate the stress response, decrease anxiety and induce overall relaxation response without the use of medication.” As such, these benefits can lower cardiac workload and improve oxygen consumption for those on ventilators. As eloquently stated, “the rhythms of the body are entrained or synchronized with the rhythms of music.”

Even in the clinic, music is used as a treatment of choice! Just think about that. Clearly there is some science behind this.



Other well established facts

Other well-known impacts of listening to music include enhancement of work-out performance, improved quality of sleep, inducement of a meditative state and helping with sleep at night (3). 

Additionally, a report from Harvard Medical School also revealed interesting facts on music’s influence on the mind. They made claims that, through research, they have been able to associate listening to music with improved cognition. It is not exactly clear how listening to music can improve cognitive function, though researchers conjecture that “listening to music helps organize the firing of nerve cells in the right half of the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain responsible for higher functions” (4). 


Personally, whenever I am stressed, listening music seems to be my therapeutic intervention of choice. Copious studies express the positive impact of music on mood and stress. Oftentimes when we are stressed or overwhelmed, we aimlessly seek ways to distract our ruminating minds from the distress. Either we socialize, watch television, read a book, or dangerously acquire nasty habits like smoking to ease our psychological torment. But hey, instead, make a cool playlist and have a private jam session! The beauty of music is that it is an endless sea of diverse choices and, as science suggests, can nourish the mind, body and soul!

This article would be incomplete without the addition of a playlist of my choice (infused with some Classics). Here it is!

  1. Beautiful Day (U2)
  2. Coming Home (Leon Bridges)
  3. Dreams (Fleetwood Mac)
  4. Save Your Scissors (City and Colour)
  5. The Less I Know The Better (Tame Impala)
  6. Viva La Vida (Coldplay)
  7. Sweet Caroline (Neil Diamond)
  8. Let Her Go (Mac Demarco)
  9. The Boxer (Simon & Garfunkel)
  10. Grace Kelly (MIKA)
  11. Operator (That’s Not the Way It Feels) (Jim Croce)
  12. From Eden (Hozier)
  13. Heroes (David Bowie)
  14. Free Fallin’ (Tom Petty)
  15. Let It Be (The Beatles)
  16. Holiday (Madonna)
  17. Here Comes The Sun (The Beatles)
  18. Everything Now (Arcade Fire)
  19. Hasn’t Hit Me Yet (Blue Rodeo)
  20. Ahead By A Century (The Tragically Hip)
  21. Brown Eyed Girl (Van Morrison)
  22. It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me (Billy Joel)
  23. Easy (Commodores)
  24. Blowin’ In the Wind (Bob Dylan)
  25. The Underdog (Spoon)
  26. Champagne Supernova (Oasis)
  27. In Between Days (The Cure)
  28. Smile (Nat King Cole)
  29. Something (The Beatles)
  30. A Change Is Gonna Come (Sam Cooke)
  31. All These Things That I’ve Done (The Killers)
  32. Stubborn Love (The Lumineers)
  33. Follow You Follow Me (Genesis)
  34. Waves (Miguel, Tame Impala)
  35. Goodbye Stranger (Supertramp)


Sources: Cover, 1, 2, 3, 4

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