Would you let a baby listen to Mozart nonstop? For years we assumed this would positively affect the intelligence of a child. Unfortunately, this is a myth. An innate talent for numbers causes someone to be good at mathematics ánd to prefer classical composers like Mozart. However, both listening to music as creating music affects people a lot.

The effects of listening to music

Music is magic: it makes you happy, it brings people together and it reduces pain. Music has a strongly associative ability. Music from horror movies provokes our deepest instincts. Researchers claim that the sound of screaming animals or crying babies are imitated in such films. We associate this with a threatening situation and it causes us to be more alert and frightened while watching a horror movie. Different types of music also affect our wellbeing. Heavy metal increases anxiety and stress: your body secretes more cortisol (stress hormone). This isn’t the case when you like heavy metal though or when you’re listening to music you like in general. This way it activates the reward system and this means the dopamine level in your brain will enhance. This creates an euphoric feeling which is related to sex, food and the usage of heroin and cocaine. Music regulates your emotions: one song makes you feel empowered, for example music with a high BPM (beats per minute) we like while working out. We produce more adrenaline and feel even better while working out (and might actually need this!). Relaxing music (which is, ofcourse, subjective) has a positive influence on pulse rate and blood pressure. Therefore, it is important to listen to music you like when you feel stressed. It will likely settle your hormones.

Music has a reminiscence-effect: memories we can’t recall the easy way can be recalled by means of music. Listen to all of the hits you heard in your early youth or the music your parents used to play when you were quite young. Feeling nostalgic already?

Why do we like predictable music? This has to do something with the survival mechanism of the brain. Our brain wants to predict the future regardless of the situation. This also happens while listening to music. Therefore, most of the existing music triggers a positive response: it’s repetitive and predictable. Exactly what our brains like. Beside the predicting ability of our brain we also process differently the second time we listen to the same piece. This makes it fun to listen to a song more than once: we hear new elements every time.

The effects of creating music

The corpus callosum, the connection between brain hemispheres, enhances when composing music. Neurologist Gottfried Schlaug discovered in his research that people who make music have a fitter brain versus people who don’t engage in music. Amateurists who just started making music actually have the fittest brain! Do you want to have a healthy brain? Start making music!

Music and therapy

The positive effects of music in psychological treatments has also been acknowledged. Music therapy is used with aphasia patients. Aphasia is an impairment of language, affecting the production or comprehension of speech. It also affects the ability to read or write. Music enhances our ability to remember things, which makes patients learn words quicker.

 

All in all, if you feel upset listen to your favorite music as fast as you can. If you want to keep your brain young, try to make some music. And if you want to learn something, try to sing it :-).

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Sarah Goslinga

My name is Sarah Goslinga, psychologist and coach at NiceDay. It's important to me that you have a real connection with your coach and that you feel you can discuss anything. There are many different things I like to do, such as making music, roller skating or dancing!

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