Music: The Elixir of Life

Music is powerful. It can affect mood in profound ways. You might be sulking one moment then instantly perk up when your favorite tune comes on. On the other hand, you might find yourself feeling sad as the first chords of an Adele song hit your ears. Music can make you happy and energized, or calm and reflective.

There’s even evidence that music can greatly impact your health. By improving your overall health, music also has a significant effect on how you look. Stress relief, bolstering the immune system and improving exercise output are all ways in which music affects appearance and augments wellbeing. Whether it’s an upbeat song or the soothing tones of a classical concert, music has the ability to improve not only health and appearance, but even quality of life.

Music’s ability to relieve stress is pretty well known. In one study, participants listening to Indian classical music while undergoing a medical procedure reported significantly reduced levels of anxiety.1 Another study found that blood pressure and heart rate were reduced in participants faced with an anxiety-increasing task when they listened to a relaxing classical piece. In both instances, stress decreased from listening to music.

It’s important to seek ways in which to control our stress levels, because if ignored, stress can lead to a myriad of health problems, including headaches and pain, insomnia, depression and irritability. It also affects behavior, contributing to problems with anger and substance abuse.

The stress hormone cortisol has been found to influence metabolism and the accumulation of body fat. Research by the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing found that there were higher levels of cortisol found in the hair of participants with higher BMIs. Cortisol can also lead to skin dryness by affecting the skin’s ability to retain moisture. On top of that, cortisol increases blood sugar, which has a damaging effect on collagen and elastin, leading to more fine lines and wrinkles on the face. Furthermore, stress can increase the inflammation that leads to acne.

Music can help combat these problems, even though it may seem unlikely. However, as music decreases your stress levels, it also makes it less likely you will deal with issues like weight gain or obesity, or worry about skin dryness, acne and wrinkles. Less stress, therefore, means a slimmer waistline and brighter, clearer and younger-looking skin.

A strong immune system keeps you healthy, and looking healthy has often been a sign of an attractive appearance. Though it may be hard to believe, simply listening to music has been shown to give your immune system quite the boost. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital found that listening to music — specifically Mozart’s piano concertos — not only helped decrease stress levels in critically ill patients, but also decreased levels of interleukin-6, a protein that has been associated with higher mortality rates, diabetes and heart problems.

Further research has found that music listeners had a higher number of “natural killer cells,” a type of lymphocyte, which attack bacteria, viruses, and even cancer cells. In essence, music actually helps you fight off disease. When a person looks healthy, he or she traditionally has bright eyes, clear skin, a stable weight and thick hair and strong nails. All of these factors together contribute to looking good.

According to a study involving nearly 7,000 patients, listening to music can substantially reduce anxiety, pain and also decrease the need for pain medicine in people undergoing surgery. Researchers found that patients who listened to music either before, during or after their procedures were significantly less anxious and reported less pain. The study showed that while music was effective at any time, patients who listened after surgery tended to enjoy better outcomes.

There is also evidence that music can have a positive impact on sleep, which makes sense considering it helps decrease anxiety, reduce blood pressure and lowers nervous system activity. One study showed that classical music helped to not only improve insomnia, but also symptoms associated with mental issues.

Researchers conducted a review of more than 50 studies exploring whether music could have an effect on people suffering from pain. The results showed that music could play a slight role in helping to reduce the intensity of pain as well as reduce the amount of pain medication needed.

If you don’t already listen to music regularly, it may be time to get in the habit. Music that improves your mood, in general, has an upbeat tempo, say like show tunes, reggae, or old school rock n’ roll. Or, it’s associated with good memories from your past, say like your high school prom or wedding. If you need to calm down, opt for soothing music, such as classical or opera. But, of course, whatever type of music that brings you joy and makes you feel good is the best choice.

Even if you only commit to listening to music for 10 minutes a day, it can have a major effect on your health and, therefore, your life. Make it a part of your daily routine while walking your dog, in the car or doing chores. It’ll be one of the best things you can do for yourself—and with very little investment.

Source: Moskowitz, A. (2018)

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