Music has a place in everyone’s lives, bringing in means for self-expression, motivation, creativity and artistic expression. It is the thump of bass at a club, the screech of a violin at a recital, or the memory of a first love that will forever be attached to a song. For all of the emotional and creative benefits that music has, many people may not realize the impact that music can have on our health.
Studies have shown for years that music and rhythm can have a direct connection to the physical rhythms we experience within our bodies and minds.
Playing music to curb anxiety and depression, soothe the impact of a noisy NICU unit or unlock the mind’s ability to process trauma can all benefit the mental and emotional health of a person. Using music to motivate a fitness or exercise program has been shown to increase the value of the activity, as well. But, music may have one other benefit – how it helps the heart.
A recent study by the University of Maryland Medical Center has shown that music can literally benefit the heart, much in the way laughter can. These benefits are directly related to heart health and the emotional response to a favorite music selected by the test subjects. By increasing a positive emotional response through the use of music, the participants’ blood vessel dilation increased, allowing for better blood flow and increased health. With the findings of the study, it is also noted that music may be responsible for increasing endorphins, which then, in turn, causes the change in blood flow and overall benefits to the heart. The key point in the study, however, was that an opposite effect in blood flow, a constriction of the blood vessels, was seen when participants listened to music they did not prefer.
This connection between favorite music, frustration (like, listening to a friend blast death metal when you prefer jazz) and overall health of the heart and vascular system can be used in a variety of ways. Additionally, these findings could be used to explain why there are people who bond over certain styles or genres of music, how bands are formed and why drum circles can be seen as therapeutic tools.
All in all, the study of music and rhythm on the minds and bodies of people continues to provide evidence for a life that is enriched with music, and that the heart benefits from music. Whether you play the djembe, rock out with a clarinet or enjoy the hot sounds of Salsa, music can create a healthy environment for the soul, the mind and the body.