Music is quite a strange phenomenon if you think about it. Regardless of genre, music is merely varying combinations of sound and beats that appeal to us differently. So why do we listen to it? Humans never truly needed music to survive — certainly not the same way we need food and water. Never mind that one overly dramatic audiophile you know who believes that he would perish without music. And yet, our love for music continues to stand the test of time in ways that puzzle and fascinates scientists in equal parts. But even as we debate over why we decided to love music in the first place, we can understand, at the very least, how it benefits us. Here are some reasons why we deserve to hold onto this one persistent addiction.
If It Makes You Happy, It Can’t Be That Bad
We listen to music because it makes us feel good. It’s the same feeling we get whenever we feed our addiction to our favourite food. Most of us have our own unique tastes, but how most of us respond to music that we enjoy remains pretty much the same, and science has a logical explanation for this. Research indicates that whenever we listen to something that particularly appeals to us, our brain releases dopamine — also known as the ‘feel-good’ hormone — into our bloodstream. Dopamine is a highly important chemical that plays a key role in multiple bodily functions and systems that ultimately affect our mood. Since music helps increase the release of dopamine in our brain, we learn to recognise it as something that pleases us, making us seek more of it for that burst of instant gratification. In a way, music is a bit of a drug that most of us can never seem to get enough of. The best part? It’s actually legal.
A Powerful Destressor
Music also effectively reduces stress levels, too much of which can harm us in ways that should never be dismissed or underestimated. Not only can stress severely impact our self-confidence by worsening acne, it is also a true silent killer. Prolonged stress can cause or worsen multiple health conditions, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, and depression. But when you’re listening to music, our body is more inclined to decrease levels of cortisol, the hormone responsible for why you feel so awful whenever you’re stressed. This is even more pronounced whenever you participate in making music by playing an instrument or singing along. So, the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed by stress, open your music player and sing along to your favourite songs. Unless you’re a singer by trade, who cares about going out of tune?
With Music, You’ve Got A Friend
There is also a social aspect to music that helps us connect with other like-minded people and thereby, feeding our innate need to belong. We are such intensely social creatures that not many of us can even survive without some form of interaction with others. Loneliness can damage us by hurting our self-esteem and overall mood, which can weigh heavily on our mental well-being. Furthermore, without the company of others, we may be less inclined to care about our own health, thus running out the immune system to the ground. Music can help curb this by giving us something to gauge our compatibility with others. It gives us something to talk about, allowing us to expand our social circle as we bond over our shared tastes. Trying to talk to someone new at a social event? Talk about the music that’s probably playing in the background.
Helps Us Focus
Music can also significantly ramp up our productivity, whether you’re pedalling the stationary bike at the gym or even working a desk job. Have you ever realised how many gyms out there have music playing in the background? It’s almost always the same type of songs, too — those upbeat ones that stay within 140 up to 180 beats per minute (BPM). They also tend to be more simply structured so that they are less likely to disrupt your rhythm as you work on your fitness. The right kind of music can also help you focus in other aspects of life, too. Classical music, for instance, is reportedly useful for students who wish to perform better academically.
A Painkiller You Won’t Have To Swallow
Music’s no morphine, for sure, but research seems to indicate that pleasurable music can help alleviate pain — at least to some extent. In particular, patients who listened to music before and after surgery had fewer complaints about their overall experience as well as the level of discomfort and pain. Studies suggest that this has to do with the way music triggers certain neurochemical effects within the limbic system in our brain. This includes the release of dopamine and the inhibition of cortisol, distracting them from the pain and discomfort as well as prevent any stress-related aggravation. So, the next time you have a headache, try listening to soothing music. Who knows? It may actually help a little bit.