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Proof that music is medicine. 4 ways it impacts your well being

Flickr: renatomitra

Global Citizen is all about taking actions and ending global poverty. Did you know, that after every action you take on our website,  you earn points you can redeem on Global Citizen Rewards?

With almost 100+ shows currently listed on our Rewards page, now is your chance to win a pair of tickets to the hottest events in your area. We’re constantly adding new shows and festivals like Fall Out Boy, Black Sabbath, and Life In Color! Who knows – the next winner could be you! Read on to learn more about music and how you can reap its rewards.

Feel the blues--or play the blues away

Music communicates in a way that makes day-to-day language seem inadequate. I went through many stressful days as a teen. Through those frustrations I somehow began teaching myself the piano. I come from a family of musicians, though I never really had an interest in learning how to play an instrument until my sophomore year of high school. Looking back, I remember feeling an indefinable sense of relief when I finally gave it a chance. It was as if some type of weight lifted off my chest and left through my fingertips like an all-encompassing exhale.

Basically, I suggest you pick up an instrument if you have the time. It doesn’t need to be anything too serious.  This casual approach to playing music allows our brain to short-circuit the stress response, research shows, and keeps stress from becoming chronic. Stress is a chain reaction that begins in our brain and eventually strikes every cell in our body. Through time, these cellular switches can get stuck in the "on" position, leading to feelings of burnout, anger, or depression, as well as a host of physical ailments.

Playing music is a great way to feel better. It improves our mental state and relieves us of the physical and emotional roadblocks that happen during a tiring days.

Who knows, you might even become the next Jimi Hendrix.  

Workout endorphins

It wasn’t until college that I was able to find a rhythm (no pun intended) and kick my workouts up a notch. Having access to the campus gym and a workout buddy was a plus, but I also made sure to never leave my apartment without my headphones. Believe it or not, listening to music competes for our brain’s attention, and can help us to override feelings of fatigue during low- and moderate-intensity exercise.

So all the times I lifted weights, did lunges and ran on the treadmill, music helped me push myself longer. Even though music’s impact is not as beneficial for those high-intensity workouts, it’s still pleasurable. Certain songs open the mental floodgates and can motivate people If one strongly identifies with the singer's emotions or perspective, the song becomes all the more motivational. There really is no better feeling than walking back out into the sun after a workout, pumped full of endorphins and listening to your favorite artist giving you an “ovation” for finishing strong.

Blast from the past

Ever wonder why certain songs trigger immediate memories? Whether it’s “Jane Says” by Jane’s Addiction, or even the slightly vulgar tune, “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-A-Lot, songs elicit an emotional landscape of feelings, whether it be a hint of nostalgia or laughter.

Brain imaging studies shows that our favorite songs stimulate the brain’s pleasure circuit, which releases dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and other neurochemicals. So our connection to music is tied to our brain's neurological development. When people hear a song they like or dislike, they also create a strong memory filled with emotion, thanks partly to a surfeit of pubertal growth hormones. These hormones tell our brains that everything we’re experiencing is incredibly important.

All these explosions (fun, explosions of course) not only make us feel great, they create something valuable: powerful memories. These memories are strongest in our formative years because it’s when people form and assert their identities. So while people become--well--themselves, the songs they identifying with, in turn, become important identity markers.

Musical Therapy

I've never gone through a surgery myself (thank god), but research finds that those who listen to music before and after surgery are more calm and in less pain. This natural pain reliever can also be defined as a treatment known as “musical therapy,” which is the prescribed use of music, and the relationship that develops through shared musical experiences, to assist or motivate a person in getting better. Similar to working out, music has the sneaky ability to unintentionally distract us. According to Music Therapist, Leah Oswanski, a typical session lasts around 45 minutes. Within 20 minutes, she’ll slow the music down so that it matches the rhythm of a patient's breathing and heart rate. Creating a relaxing environment during a stressful time is always tough, which is why having a trained musical therapist on hand is always beneficial to any minor, or major surgery.

Music works miracles with boosting our moods, igniting our memories, and moving our bodies. Don’t end this year on a bad note as there’s plenty of tunes to be played and shows to attend. Visit our Rewards page and participate in a global movement to end extreme poverty!