I am not sure I know anyone on this planet who doesn’t enjoy music of one kind or another. It can make us happy or sad, want to dance, or even flood back some memories of our past. No matter what type of music you are drawn to, it is how music affects your brain that we are going to take a look at.
I will be the first one to admit that I have almost zero musical talent. However, it doesn’t stop me from enjoying it and getting my groove on every so often. It’s not pretty but it makes me feel good!
Our brains are divided into two hemispheres – also known as the left brain and the right brain. Each hemisphere is responsible for different aspects of learning and cognitive thinking. Personally, I tend to be more of a left-brain thinker – this is the side of the brain that is responsible for more logical thinking, putting things in order, and calculating mathematical equations.
That being said, that doesn’t mean that the right side of my brain is dormant. Far from it! The right side of the brain is known more for being creative and being proficient in the arts. This is where the ability to create art (check out my painting page on Facebook) or playing guitar comes into play.
So, if you are still reading, I am assuming you are interested in how music affects your brain. The benefits are significant.
#1. Keeps Us Positive
Think about a time when you were feeling a bit down or just not yourself and you decided to listen to some of your favorite tunes. More than likely, it helped you to get through that difficult situation as it distracted you from what was really going on. Your brain used the music to help you focus on more positive things even though you may have initially been upset or depressed.
Our brains are able to distinguish between music that is happy and sad but the mere chords used or the tempo of the song we are listening to. So next time you are feeling a bit down, resist the urge to pick one of those depressing breakup songs and find the one that makes you want to dance!
#2. Releases Dopamine
There is a neurotransmitter in your brain called dopamine, often known as the “feel-good” chemical. Certain things like eating, sleeping, and obviously sex are needed for our survival and well, they feel good. It is because these activities release dopamine. When we listen to music, this “feel good” chemical is also released.
As a result, listening to music that brings on this release of dopamine may be useful if you are trying to manage depression more naturally. Also, if you may be demonstrating some signs of anxiety, listening to music may be one of the strategies you can use to help alleviate some of them.
#3. Brainwaves are Stimulated
Have you ever noticed that certain types of music affect your ability to feel relaxed while others “pump you up” and make you want to jump up and move? And then there are others that somehow can make you focus more on the task at hand?
Music is powerful in this regard and stimulates brain waves. A slow melody can bring on a sense of euphoria and relaxation while those songs with a more driving beat may motivate you to work out harder in the gym.
Exactly how music affects your brain is not completely understood but if you find that certain beats can improve your memory or increase your ability to function at a more optimal level, I say listen away.
#4. Minimizes Your Pain
When you are in pain, often your blood pressure and heart rate are increased. You are not in a state of calm and relaxation. As a result, your pain levels may be perceived as higher than they actually maybe.
Studies have shown that when individuals who listened to calm and even sedative melodies perceived their pain as less than in comparison to those who did not listen to such music. This type of music has the ability to relax and drive your attention away from the pain. Again, it works as a positive distraction.
The pathways used in the brain to process music are the same pathways that pain travels. Consequently, if the brain is using those pathways to interpret the music, there is not much room left for the pain. This, in conjunction with eating certain spices that can reduce inflammation you may actually begin to feel some real pain relief. Whether the pain is medically being reduced is not as important as your perception of said pain.
#5. Triggers Specific Memories
You are driving down a long stretch of highway and on the radio, a song from your teenage years begins to play. Suddenly, you are thrust back 20 or 30 years and can recall a specific time and place with little effort, almost like you are actually there once again.
Music triggers the emotional part of our brains, and most of our memories are linked to our feelings. We can begin to feel the emotions of that specific memory, whether it be joy or sadness or frustration. We may begin to remember a certain individual that made us smile or perhaps the one who broke our heart.
Music can also cause us to recall simple tasks. For example, when I teach my students how to change a percentage to a decimal, I tell them to “Beyonce it!” You probably just asked yourself, “What in the world does Beyonce have to do with decimals and percents?” It’s easy. When you change a percent to a decimal, you need to move the decimal over two times to the left – think of Beyonce’s song, Irreplaceable, when she sings “to the left, to the left” during the chorus. Time and time again, I have watched my students use this to remember this mathematical skill. (Combined with a quick double thrust of the hips left and you have a surefire hit on your hands!)
How music affects your brain can be mysterious but generally results in positive benefits. Our brains are amazing organs and are affected by almost everything around us and music is no different.
I am curious as to what song you listen to that puts you in a better mood or that you use to complete a task more efficiently. Let me know in the comments below!