A Little Classical Music Goes A Long Way

Jan 24, 2018

Can a single piece of classical music a day change your life? That seems like a tall order for a simple set of notes, but surprisingly, most people find it to be a resounding yes, and in this case the science backs them up! And January can be the perfect time to dive headfirst into a new appreciation for those classical tunes, with their deep, rich, and diverse marvels.

Humans are music-makers and music-sharers, and we always have been. Before lovestruck teenagers started sharing radio-recorded mix-tapes, before there were even cities or farms, humans would come together around the fire after a hard day of gathering and hunting to sing ancient songs, full of myth and meaning. It’s how they made sense of their world. And it’s an impulse that’s still strong in us today.

Yet, today’s crazy and cluttered world doesn’t afford us much time for those ancient past-times. In fact, the simple act of making time every day to listen to a particular piece of music could be considered a luxury. But maybe, just maybe, we need that musical break now more than ever.

Science is consistently and increasingly proving the importance of small and regular acts of what could be called “self-care.” These small changes in behaviour can have amazing benefits to both mental and physical health. Things like meditation, yoga, or making a trip to the gym once in a while have obvious benefits, but aren’t always easy to commit to or fit into a busy schedule. Music, however, is portable. Most people can find 10 minutes somewhere in their day to plug into their headphones, focus on a single piece of music, and be transformed.

Let’s take a look at some of the real world benefits to body and mind when you take a few minutes out of each day to enjoy some classical music.

Lower Blood Pressure

Studies have started to show that people who listen to classical music have significantly lower blood pressure levels than those that don’t. Researchers think this is thanks to music’s amazing ability to help your heart recover from stress throughout the day, which lowers your blood pressure as a result. Everyone knows the de-stressing power of music, but it’s nice to have science back it up with numbers!

Control Anxiety

Music helps with stress in a few ways. Not only does it help the heart recover from the stresses of the day, it also helps to lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, which plays a role in anxiety. In one study, pregnant women who listened to a CD of classical music every week told researchers that they had lower levels of stress and anxiety throughout their pregnancy. And these benefits aren’t confined to mothers-to-be; in fact, another study found that music helps reduce anxiety in hospital patients both before and after their procedure.

If music can help with the stress and anxiety that go with being in the hospital, or carrying a child to term, imagine what it can do for your everyday stressors!

More In Touch With Emotions

Music can make the most miserable person crack a smile, or the most cynical shed a tear. A study performed at Southern Methodist University asked people to write about their past: specifically the most important or significant thing that’s ever happened to them. The people who were listening to classical music as they wrote became more “in tune” with their emotions, and were more willing to talk about things and how they felt about them than the group not listening to music.

The emotional benefits of classical music extend well beyond just writing things down; being more aware of, and in control of your emotions is the best way to maintain healthy relationships of every kind.

A Better Night’s Sleep

If you wake up after a full night’s rest still feeling exhausted, it might be a sign that you’re not sleeping deeply enough. Classical music to the rescue! Back in 2006, a study found that people suffering from sleeping disorders actually slept better when they fell asleep listening to classical music compared to those who didn’t listen to music.

While this is a great home remedy for those restless snoozers, there are some song that are better than others. Stick to classical pieces that have a regular rhythm, low pitches, and nice, tranquil melodies. These characteristics are thought to be the most effective when it comes to improving the quality of your sleep.

Less Pain

Chronic pain can be a double-edged sword. Not only do you have to deal with the physical discomfort, but there is often a hopelessness and depression attached to the idea that you’ll never be free of the pain. However, both edges of that sword can be dulled with the power of music; research has started to show that music can decrease pain in surgical and cancer patients.

In fact, a study from 2006 found that people with chronic pain who listened to classical music not only reported feeling less pain, but also said they felt like they had more power over their depression and disability. Researchers have even gone so far as to suggest that music gives patients recovering from surgery a sense of empowerment, and they encourage nurses to use it more as a rehabilitation tool.

Boost To Your Brainpower

Remember those 10 little minutes I said everyone can find in their day to listen to music? That’s really all it takes for some amazing brain boosts! Back in 2001, a study asked people to listen to Mozart’s sonata for only 10 minutes. After comparing IQ tests from before and after listening to the 10 minutes of Mozart, the researchers found that their subjects’ results increased by almost 10 points. They went on to explain that classical music helps to enhance the brain’s “temporal reasoning,” which is our understanding of how things fit into a space.

This so-called “Mozart Effect” is controversial though, with more skeptical researchers arguing that you need to consciously appreciate the music in order to see this kind of benefit.

Either way, it certainly can’t hurt to put on some Mozart during your morning commute.