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6 ways music can help you

There’s a fascinating world out there which you might not have heard of. It’s one of those things that has been around for a while, but in the last decade or more has surged on the radar of mental health practitioners. It’s the fascinating world of music therapy. I’ll get to that in tomorrow’s podcast, but you may be thinking this subject is not for you. Truth is: you’re already doing it, research shows.

Many of the benefits of music have been well documented and scientifically proven over the years. “Of course!” you say. You’ve read all this stuff before.

But what I find fascinating is that it turns out that most of the time, we do these things instinctively as a response to our physiological needs. So if you’re pounding the pavement with P.O.D.’s hard rock, or drifting off in a daydream to Damien Rice, chances are you’re doing it because that’s what your body needs and is telling you to do.

So here are 6 reasons why music is good for you.

Anaesthetic, naturally.

A number of studies have concretely supported the hypothesis that music drastically reduces physical pain and discomfort.

For example, in 2015 a study on patients with fibromyalgia (a disease characterised by severe musculoskeletal pain) found that those who listened to music throughout the trial experienced significant pain reduction compared to people who didn’t. (I might try this the next time my kids cause enjury to each other.)

“Should we change the music, sir?”

How was your festive season feasting?

If you overdid it and are keen to shed a few kilos, then having some soft, slow music on such as light jazz will not only encourage you to eat less, you’ll enjoy your meal more.

Researchers say that taking on this new habit leads diners to eat about 732 kilojoules less during a meal. Of course, this might be bad news for restauranteurs… but it’s good news for your bulding belly.

Feeling good.

True story. Here’s some biology lesson:

Immunoglobulin A, or IgA, is a vital antibody and the immune system’s first line of defence against illness and disease.

IgA can be increased by listening to soothing “muzak”, a common type of background music. After tests, students exposed to muzak had significantly higher levels of IgA compared to groups who were subjected to silence, a tone click or a radio broadcast, researchers said.


Thinking about booking yourself in for a massage to relieve emotional stress? Simply kicking back to the sounds of soothing tunes could do the trick, U.S. researchers say. They found that a group of people with generalised anxiety disorder who listened to one hour of relaxing music across 10 sessions experienced the same psychological and physiological benefits of those who used the sessions to have massages. The type of music you listen to in order to help you unwind is a matter of personal taste and what speaks to you, the experts say. Just be sure to avoid anything that causes you to ruminate or be stuck in a dark place.

(Interestingly, a recent study from the University of Queensland, published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, shows that people who listen to heavy metal music are more likely to quickly purge emotions such as anger.)

Ok look, don’t laugh… but if you’re thinking about taking a first aid course, you may want to also start memorising the Bee Gees’s hit song, Stayin’ Alive, to supplement your study of CPR. (I said don’t laugh!)

The American Heart Association advises that if you’re ever in a position where you have to perform CPR on somebody, the beat of the classic disco track matches the CPR rhythm of 100 chest compressions per minute.

Any tune that’s 100-120 beats per minute will work, but Stayin’ Alive seems most appropriate.

If you still find yourself singing jingles from the 80s, there’s probably a good reason. Learning new information through rhyme and song leads to better recall than acquiring knowledge by other traditional methods.

In one study, published in the journal Memory & Cognition, researchers split students learning Hungarian into groups and asked each one to either speak, speak rhythmically or sing phrases. They found that the group who sang outperformed the others in recall accuracy.

Music helps you remember things in clumps, they concluded.

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