A Look At The Science Behind The Beats
There are two things that virtually every culture in the world has in common: smiles and music. If you think about the role that music has played in your life, what are some of the things that come to mind? What experiences have you had when music has touched your soul in a way that’s unforgettable? What memories do you associate with specific songs? Which songs are woven into your identity, and which songs can you listen to over and over because you just love them that much?
Whether it’s a Beethoven symphony or that song by Def Leppard you used to rock out to with your friends when you were young, we would bet there you’ve had specific songs come to mind when pondering all of those questions. So why exactly does music have so much power? Why is it able to help us, hurt us, and heal us so effectively? Today, we’re going to dive into the science behind music and what makes it such a palpable force across the entire human experience.
Music Decreases Our Stress Response
You’ve probably experienced pleasant physical sensations when listening to your favorite music, such as getting goosebumps, having a rush of energy, or feeling more relaxed. So it may come as no surprise that music has a physical effect on our bodies. What that effect is depends on the type of music you’re listening to.
Classical and healing music decrease the stress response and promote relaxation. One study found that listening to classical music lowered variability in heart rate (indicating lower stress), and increased blood flow and surface body temperature (both of which indicate relaxation). So if you’d like to feel a little more chill during everyday life, consider finding some light classical or healing music to listen to in the car or while you’re making dinner.
On the other hand, pop and light rock music haven’t been shown to reduce stress and help us relax on a physiological level (though they can really help during exercise, as discussed later.) Some other types of music, such as heavy metal, can even raise blood pressure and have other negative physical effects. Note: we’re not staying that you shouldn’t listen to this kind of music, but you might not get the same relaxation benefits from it.
Music Helps Us Stay Motivated During Exercise
We all know that exercise, along with sleep and a healthy diet, is one of the main pillars of both physical and mental health. But we also know that sometimes it can be hard to get started, especially if you’re just beginning your journey of getting back into shape. Several studies have shown that music helps people exercise both harder and longer, whether they’re professional athletes or are just starting out. Another cool perk of listening to music during exercise is that it has the power to help you feel even better about what you’ve accomplished after your workout is over. In short, you get the mood-boosting endorphins from exercising, and the mood boost that comes from listening to great music!
The Predictability of Music Is Enjoyable
In an unpredictable world, it’s good to have something predictable in our lives. Think about the music that you prefer to listen to. Odds are, it has an easily identifiable melody or theme that repeats itself with slight variations as the song goes along. The music may change over time by adding more instruments, getting louder or softer, or changing key. But the overall melody and supporting harmonies probably stay pretty similar. Our favorite music often strikes a balance between reassuring predictability and just enough variation to make it pleasantly surprising.
Music Helps Shape Our World
There’s a reason music has had a special place in human culture since the dawn of time. It helps give us a sense of identity, unifies us, and helps give voice to worship, courtship, mourning, and celebration. On an individual level, it’s likely that everyone has certain songs that they love to listen to throughout their life. Or, they might have deep connections to music that has helped them through difficult times as well as music that they associate with positive memories. What songs are part of your musical identity and why?
Music Fosters Community
Whether you love classical music or metal (or if you’re eclectic, maybe both), you probably find it easy to connect with people who love the same type of music that you do. With the advent of social media, you can easily become part of groups that share a love of classic rock, country, pop, and more – and even individual artists within those genres. Music also brings us together in our religions, cultures, and across our history, connecting us with something bigger than ourselves and helping give us meaning and purpose.
How has music helped you in your life? We would love to hear from you in the comments below! If you have questions or would like to make an appointment, please give us a call at 307-631-5574.