Music Makes You Feel Better!
By Cindy Houston and Amy Houston
These days we have many activities and responsibilities that compete for our time and attention. Outside school, children are busy with everything from sports to gaming. Adults are often caring for their kids, grandkids or elderly relatives in addition to working. It seems that we are all busier, and under more stress than ever. Columbia University researchers tell us 80% of our illnesses are related to the stress in our lives.
Did you know that the simple act of listening to music we love can help us relax and reduce anxiety? Most of us have had the experience of music lifting our spirits when we’re blue, or reminding us of a special event or memory associated with the song.
We often don’t realize how much music is used around us to set a mood. Soothing music is played in the elevator and the doctor’s office to reduce anxiety. Peppy music with a strong beat is played at the gym to encourage us to increase our activity level. But there is so much more that music can do for us!
Michigan State University Extension recognizes the importance of music in relieving stress and anxiety: “Research indicates that music stimulates the brain’s production of endorphins, the ‘feel good’ hormones in our bodies. This stimulation can result in improved blood flow and blood pressure. Further studies show even more benefits from music therapy when it is used not as an end product, but as a tool for health and well-being.”
Music can help us manage pain, partly by drawing our attention away from the pain. In addition, when we listen to music we enjoy our brains produce those feel-good hormones. The pleasant feelings that result combined with the distraction can provide drug free pain relief. Many medical facilities use music to help elevate patients’ moods, calm apprehension or anxiety, and promote movement during physical therapy.
We can be mindful about using music to enhance our lives and help us feel better when we are listening to our favorite songs. Further research shows that when we make the music ourselves, the benefits are greatly increased.
Studies have shown that playing an instrument increases memory capacity, enhances cognitive skills and hand-eye coordination, and boosts focus and concentration. University studies conducted in Georgia and Texas found significant correlations between the number of years of instrumental music instruction and student achievement in math, science and language arts. Music students especially enjoyed higher scores in math (improved understanding of fractions was notable) and reading comprehension.
Of course, the educational benefits of making music lead to improved test scores, including on the SATs. But helping children get a strong start in music, and encouraging them to stick with their new hobby, is a gift they can use all their lives. With music, they can reap the benefits far into the future.
Many adults continue enjoy making music in their advanced years. According to the Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Research Foundation, “New research published in the International Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease suggests that playing a musical instrument during adulthood is significantly associated with reduced risk of cognitive impairment and dementia.”
Adults often believe it is too late to learn to play an instrument if they didn’t learn as children but it is never too late to learn to make music! The beauty of making music is that it isn’t just about the music. It’s about reaping the unseen benefits – whether one begins in childhood or adulthood.
Adult students in the Goofin’ Around Keyboard Class at Garten’s Music have experienced this firsthand. Millie Tallman played the organ to cope with her husband’s death. “After the evening meal, I sit down and play,” she said. “I don’t know what I would do without it. It’s a godsend. It helps with the loneliness. It’s just wonderful to have it.”
Joyce O’Dell also appreciates her hobby, especially since she has vision problems including macular degeneration. “It’s real hard for me to do a lot of things because of my vision,” she said. “When I get nervous or bored or just kind of down, I go in and sit down and start playing. Sometimes I’ll tell my husband, Jim, ‘Now I’m just going to go play 30 minutes,’ and when I look up or he’ll say something to me, it’s been two or three hours.”
When Bill Hall retired from the Air Force, he chose music as his hobby and enrolled in the keyboard class at Garten’s. “I think I was looking for this,” he said, “and I think I was looking for it for a long time. And while I’m playing, I’m having fun,” he added. “I challenge myself when I’m working on a song. I’m staying busy.”
No matter our age or expertise we can use music to improve our lives.
Cindy Houston is the second generation owner of Garten’s Music and grew up in the music business. Her credentials include six years of experience in banking and finance and thirty years in the music business. She has twenty years experience teaching adults recreational music making and wellness. Cindy can be reached 316-942-1337 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about Garten’s Music, please visit gartensmusic.com or wichitamusicacademy.com.