How Music Can Improve–and May Harm–Your Wellbeing
Music has always been a fundamental part of what it means to be human. We are the only species on Earth that has ever created music (as far as we know), and it’s an art form that we continue to explore with passion and determination, creating new sounds every day of every year. Because music is so integral to who we are, it should come as no surprise that it has some effects on our state of mind and our bodies. The science on the impact of music is still emerging, but now researchers know enough about what happens to us when we listen to it that we’re able to point to some effects. Here are the ways that music can improve wellbeing, and one way that it can ruin it.
Music Promotes MemoryMusic has an uncanny ability to bypass the processing of the cortex (the part of the brain responsible for higher-level functioning, like reasoning), and go straight to the base of the brain – the component responsible for emotion (among other things). Researchers believe that this might be the reason music has such a profound effect on memory. Throughout our lives, we learn to associate certain musical sounds with emotion, and so music can create powerful memories. You’ve probably had the experience in your life where you hear a particular piece of music, and it reminds you of another time in your life. It may bring back feelings of nostalgia, or tell you of a time when you were truly happy.
Music Reduces AnxietyThe way that music reduces anxiety is twofold. The first way it does so is by giving people who are socially anxious a creative outlet. It can be difficult for some people to sit doing nothing but talk in a social situation. But if they’re able to be creative, say by creating music, then they suddenly feel relaxed. Music gives them a creative outlet for their energy. The other way music alleviates anxiety is by helping the brain to release feel-good chemicals. Researchers now know that music can provoke the brains of some people to release endorphins which can counteract some of the effects of anxiety.
Music Can Damage Your EarsListening to music can be an uplifting experience, but it’s not always beneficial for your health and wellbeing. Listening to music too loud, for instance, can damage the lining of your ears – something you can learn more about from hearing specialists. Energy from sound waves penetrates the ear, causing the eardrum to vibrate more vigorously than usual. Sensitive cells inside the middle ear then become disrupted, and over time, lose their ability to interpret incoming sounds. People who listen to music are actually at a higher risk than most for sound-induced hearing loss. Listening to music is a pleasurable experience, and so people can be tempted to listen at high volume for extended periods of time. The longer you listen to music at high volume, the more likely you are to experience degradation in your hearing capacity.The music in our lives affect our wellbeing in a number of ways. Educating yourself of the benefits to your wellbeing–both positive and negative–is an important aspect of choosing your listening preferences.
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