FIGHT THE WINTER BLUES WITH MUSIC

Mar 1, 2022

The days may be getting longer, but that February chill is hanging on for dear life. With winter dragging on through an ongoing pandemic, we could all use having our spirits lifted a little. And if you’re a regular reader, you may already know where this is going. Few things can help us out of the depression and doldrums of those winter blues quite like music!

The fact is, humans have been making and listening to music for more than 40,000 years. And although we may not know exactly when it all started, we do have a pretty good idea of why it started. Playing and listening to music benefits us all, both individually, and as a group.

Here’s what we know about the power of music to improve our physical, mental, and emotional health. Use this knowledge to brush away your winter blues this February!

ANCIENT MUSICAL CONNECTIONS

One of the most important aspects of music – especially during those long, lonely winter months – is to create a sense of cohesion and connection.

In fact, many scientists think humans developed a dependence on music as a form of communication because our ancestors were descended from tree-dwellers who would call to each other from the forest canopy.

Even today, music is still one of the most powerful ways we have to connect with one another:

  • National anthems and stadium music unit crowds at sporting events.
  • Protest songs create a shared sense of purpose.
  • Hymns bring worshipers together.
  • Love songs help couples bond.
  • Lullabies create deep and secure bonds between parents and children.

And more, beyond all of this, music helps us feel connected to the artists and other like-minded fans. All without ever having to be in the same room as them.

MUSIC & MOOD, MENTAL HEALTH, & BRAIN FUNCTION

Did you know music literally changes your brain? Doctors have begun to recommend listening to music to help stimulate your brain. This is because of the way music engages our brains – something we can literally see on brain scans.

Researchers have shown that listening to music triggers the release of a number of neurochemicals that play a role in your mood, brain function, and mental health:

  • Dopamine – associated with pleasure and the brain’s “reward” center.
  • Cortisol – a stress hormone.
  • Serotonin – related to “good” feelings and immunity.
  • Oxytocin – the “bonding” chemical.

Many of these brain chemicals are closely connected to mood. So it should come as no surprise to learn that a great many people use music to change or regulate their moods, and help process their emotions.

Lowering Anxiety

One benefit of music that has a lot of evidence to support it is its ability to calm people who feel anxious. In fact, studies have even shown that patients in stroke rehab feel more relaxed after listening to music for only an hour. Even people facing critical illness feel less anxiety after music therapy.

If it has that much of an impact on people in the hospital, imagine what it can do for the stresses we deal with daily!

Lessen the Symptoms of Depression

Depression, seasonal affect disorder, or the winter blues. Whatever you want to call it, it’s a problem that countless people – adults and children alike – must contend with during the cold and dark winter months. And a years-long global pandemic only makes things worse.

But recent studies have shown that listening to music – especially classical combined with jazz – can have a positive impact on depression. This is especially true when there is several listening sessions conducted by a certified music therapist.

Don’t like classical or jazz? No problem! The same study found that activities like drum circles also have an above-average benefit for those struggling with depression.

Improvement in Learning

One of the specific ways music engages the brain is when it comes to learning. People have been found to be more motivated to learn when they know they can listen to music as a reward.

Better Memory

Another area where music engages the brain is memory. Several scientific studies looking at memory have asked participants to read and recall a short list of words. Time after time, the group listening to classical music did better than those listening to white noise or nothing at all.

Some of these studies went on to track how fast people could perform simple tasks, like matching numbers to shapes. The results were the same: Mozart helped people be faster and more accurate.

MUSIC & THE BODY

Heart Health

A universal truth of music is that it makes you want to move! And the benefits of dancing are well documented and understood. Music alters your breath rate, your heart rate, and even your blood pressure. All things that your heart needs from time to time.

Fight Fatigue

If you’ve ever rolled down the car windows and turned up the volume on a warm summer day, you already know how energizing music can be. And research backs it up! Studies have shown that relaxing music helps reduce fatigue and maintain muscle endurance, especially for people stuck performing repetitive tasks.

Boosting the Body

Exercise is one of the most effective ways to fight those winter blues, and music can help there too.

Most exercise enthusiasts already know that music enhances performance, and again, the science backs it up. As we’ve already discussed, music can have a positive impact on mood. Your mood, in turn, helps your body exercise more efficiently and cuts down how aware you are that you’re exerting yourself. Because of this, listening to music often leads to longer workouts.

The impact music has on us is both powerful and undeniable! And all of this is just from listening. Learning to play music brings a whole set of different and complementary benefits!

Start your musical journey today with the professional instructors at The Music Studio! Check out all our programs and sign up today!