The average music listener spends close to 26.9 hours a week enjoying their favorite tunes. That’s around 4 hours daily. It’s a massive figure, but speaks to the prevalence of music in our daily lives.
Even those who aren’t super enthused with the pop charts can find their niche. Most people can find a genre of music that they enjoy. If not a genre, an artist. If not an artist, a song. Anybody can find some semblance of joy in a pretty melody.
But what goes on in our brains when we listen to music? Why do we react so strongly to it?
Soundwaves take a remarkable path through the body. They start in the ear, as vibrations. The inner ear then translates these vibrations into electrical signals, which move through neurons into the brain’s cerebral cortex. Here, dedicated regions of the brain detect and separate different elements of the electrical signals like tone, pitch, and rhythm. The brain then puts this all together, internalizing it into an experience. No wonder our bodies and minds are so affected by it!
So yes, music can have a significant effect on both our brains and bodies. Upbeat, high-tempo music can make you feel alert or even spike adrenaline. Slower songs can ease your mind, slow racing thoughts, and even physically relax your muscles. Music truly is an effective stress management tool.
Modern research backs up what many of us already feel. The research suggests that music has a powerful effect on stress reduction, pain management, and focus improvement.
A study published in November of 2020 reviewed music therapy for stress reduction found a significant “medium-to-strong effect of music therapy on stress-related outcomes.” This means that compared to a control group (who did not receive music therapy), participants who received music therapy exhibited lesser symptoms of stress.
Music in the study was also shown to lower heart rate and cortisol levels, release endorphins, distract effectively, and reduce stress related symptoms.
Tunes are just another tool in your wellness kit. If you’ve refrained from popping in your headphones recently, maybe give a listening session a go.