13 Reasons Why Music is Good for your Mental Health - Part 2

May 29, 2020

13 Reasons Why Music is Good for your Mental Health - Part 2

If you haven’t read Part 1 of this blog you can do so here.

Music Can Improve Physical Endurance and Performance

Exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function. It has also been found to alleviate symptoms such as low self-esteem and social withdrawal.

A recent 2020 meta-analysis of 139 studies was used to quantify the effects of music listening in exercise and sport domains. Four categories of potential benefits (psychological responses, physiological responses, psychophysical responses, and performance outcomes) were calculated based on 3,599 participants.
This investigation suggests that listening to music before or during physical activity offers potential benefits for exercisers and athletes. Music has the capacity to enhance enjoyment, improve physical performance, reduce perceived exertion, and benefit physiological efficiency across a range of physical activities.

Given its propensity to enhance affective states during physical activity, music has been advocated as a means by which to increase adherence to physical activity.

So whether you use music to jumpstart a new exercise practice, improve your current one or u train for a triathlon, creating an exercise playlist of music you can’t help but move to is a no brainer. To make a playlist, for a slow paced run aim between 100 and 120 BPM. Use faster paced songs (140 BPM +) for a cardio workout, and slow it down for the rest period in between circuits to less than 100 BPM.

You can pick one from the countless “best of” lists online or playlists on Spotify. If you don’t care for formal exercise….just dance to it!

Music Can Heighten Concentration and Focus

Many young people presenting to college mental health clinics report feeling stressed, unable to focus and overwhelmed by pressure to perform.

Dr. Emma Gray, a UK cognitive behavioral therapist, worked with Spotify to research the benefits of certain types of music. She found that listening to music set in the 50- to 80 beat per minute range puts the brain into an alpha state. Music with this BPM can lower blood pressure, heart rate and reduce anxiety which can combat stress before a study session.

Here are a few playlists and tips:
1. Go classical 60-80 BPM Seatwork
2. Listen to Nature Sounds
3. Avoid words by listening to Instrumental Study Music
4. Chill, Ambient and Acoustic Study Music is also good for those who prefer something more contemporary.
5. Use noise canceling headphones whenever possible to drown out distractions.
6. Keep the volume reasonable to avoid drowning out your own thoughts.

Music Can Facilitate Expression

Sometimes we become stuck or frozen within certain emotions and do not have access to the full range of emotions universally available to us. Or even worse, sometimes we become totally numb to our emotions.

Playing an instrument or singing facilitates the expression of emotions, but even listening to music can illicit a range of emotions that can help keep us emotionally pliable.

A recent 2020 study at the University of California, Berkeley surveyed over 2500 people in the US and China about their emotional responses to thousands of songs in a wide array of genres. The result? drum roll please… the subjective experience of music across cultures can be mapped within at least 13 overarching feelings: amusement, joy, eroticism, beauty, relaxation, sadness, dreaminess, triumph, anxiety, scariness, annoyance, defiance, and feeling pumped up.

"We have rigorously documented the largest array of emotions that are universally felt through the language of music," said study senior author Dacher Keltner, a UC Berkeley professor of psychology.

The data was translated into an interactive audio map where visitors can move their cursors to listen to any of thousands of music snippets to find out, among other things, if their emotional reactions match how people from different cultures respond to the music. Check out the MAP!

Music Can Motivate You

The study of how music affects our brains is called neuromusicology, which looks at the way our nervous system reacts to music. Music is actually an indispensable neurological tool that helps us change our mindset and mood.

Especially now, when so many of us are working from home and time seems relative, we are all in need of motivation to get out of bed, shed the pajamas and  get into our flow. There is a music therapy concept known as the ISO principle  used to slowly work up to the desired mindset. Make a playlist that starts out with something peaceful (50-80 beats per minute) and ease into a tempo that best suits whatever chores you’re seeking motivation for (house cleaning, gardening, painting etc.) We’ve already covered tasks involving concentration (50-80 BPM) and working out (100-140 BPM) Other tasks can be custom tailored…just listen to your body.

You can get the BPM of any song here!

Music Can Help You Relax / Reduce Muscle Tension

To cope with stress, millions around the world use pharmaceuticals associated with numerous contraindications and negative side effects. Sometimes medical intervention is needed, but music listening and music making have been associated with a broad range of positive outcomes in health and well-being and the relaxation response has been the most widely studied subject.

Outside of combat zones, it is hard to think of a group under more tension than intensive care nurses. A 2019 study examined the effects of progressive muscle relaxation combined with music on stress, fatigue and coping styles amongst intensive care unit (ICU) nurses. 

In the randomized controlled trial of 56 nurses, 28 received a 20 minute session comprised of progressive muscle relaxation combined with music for a total of eight weeks.The control group of 28 received only a one-time face-to-face 20 minute education session. Data was gathered at weeks 4, 8 and 12. Stress and fatigue scores were significantly lower for the intervention group at weeks 8 and 12, and coping skills were significantly higher in the same group at weeks 4, 8 and 12.

The results indicated that progressive muscle relaxation combined with music appears to be effective in decreasing stress and fatigue, and in improving the coping styles amongst intensive care nurses.

Music Can Help You Sleep

Sleep and mental health are closely connected as sleep deprivation affects your mental health and some psychiatric issues may lead to disturbed sleep cycles… a chicken and egg dilemma. Often, re- establishing a healthy sleep pattern may alleviate mental health symptoms.

From the time we are infants and young children, music is the universal go-to tool for parents to soothe children into relaxation and, eventually, to sleep. One of the oldest known lullabies is a 5,000-year-old Babylonian song. On a purely intuitive basis, a world-wide phenomena that has persisted for millennia has to have merit. Clinical trials have proven this instinct correct by suggesting that listening to music may be helpful in the treatment of sleep disturbances in both healthy and clinical populations.

So what kind of music is suggested?

1. Listening to music around 60 BPM helps you fall asleep as your heartbeat slows during sleep and music can help it slip into this ideal “sleep zone”.
2. Since music is very evocative, try not to listen to anything that elicits strong emotional responses.
3. Instrumental playlists are generally better as your mind will not be distracted from sleep by listening to lyrics.
4. Genres that are good picks are classical, contemporary classical, chill out and ambient, world music, meditation music and nature sounds.

Music Can Improve Your Memory

If you haven’t seen this touching Oliver Sacks video about music and memory, it’s well worth the time as it says more than words ever can. Watch it to the end for a real jolt of inspiration.

What would the soundtrack to YOUR life sound like?

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