Can Music Affect Your Health & Wellness?

Like it is for many Americans, the beginning of 2019 is about restarting my health journey and looking for ways to improve my overall health and wellness.  Every year, I say to myself, “Trey, you’re going to go to the gym and eat better.” Usually by February, I haven’t seen the gym, and I’m sitting on the sofa eating a pizza.  I’m currently planning for the year and figuring out how I can make changes to my daily routines to get the results that I want.  In the process, I wondered if I could find a way to use my love of music to help me create a more consistent lifestyle and extend the amount of time that I would normally focus on my health journey.  I remember reading somewhere that if health is the goal, then wellness is the way that we proceed to achieve it.  So can music be a part of my wellness journey to achieve overall health physically, mentally, and socially?

After a quick Google search, I discovered there is a ton of information on the many ways that music can impact your health.  The first and most prominent effect is the impact music can have on your mood.  This seemed to be a no-brainer, as I’ve always known personally that playing certain types of music has helped me feel better about myself or my situation.  Throughout my lifetime, I have consistently made mix CD’s or playlists for myself and friends to help us get through our various circumstances  (e.g., Love, Light & Lemon Drops).  In my research, I discovered that listening to music can cause the brain to release dopamine, which is known as the main chemical of pleasure and is partly responsible for motivational responses.

Studies have shown that music can enhance your cognitive performance which includes your memory, thinking and reasoning skills.  Your brain is adept at distinguishing music from random sounds.  Music acts as an “exercise” that warms up the brain cells and allows them to process information more efficiently.

Listening to music regularly can also play a role in reducing stress and anxiety.  There have been studies that show listening to music, whether actively or in the background, can help keep you calm and focused.  If you experience road rage, the type of music that you listen to in your commute can either inflame or soothe you.  For those who battle depression, music therapy can be used to help ease some of the symptoms and improve function.  There are plenty of physical effects as well.  Research has shown that music can contribute to a decrease in blood pressure and reduce stress levels while doing tense activities like cleaning, paying bills, budgeting, or planning.

Music can even play a role in your diet.  Most nutritionists will likely tell you to reduce the amount of fast food or take-out that you eat and cook your own food at home.  However, many of us don’t have time to cook or find that process stressful because we don’t know what to do.  Well, playing music while you’re cooking can help to make it a fun and relaxing activity and will encourage you to stay in and cook more often, instead of spending money to eat out.  Research also shows that playing soothing music at a low volume and dimming the lights while you eat can help you to slow down while eating and lower your cortisol levels, therefore improving your digestion.  Be careful in your selections: research also shows that playing loud, up-tempo music can increase your chances of choosing less healthful options and eating more.

Playing music at bed time can also assist in de-stressing, increasing your serotonin levels, and improving your sleep.  It can help to slow down your breathing, reduce your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, and ease your mind to get a healthy rest.  Of course, we know that having the proper amount of sleep will also contribute to your overall wellness.

Not only can music calm you down, but it can also enhance your exercise routine.  Up-tempo music helps increase endurance, boost physical performance, and decrease the subjective perception of fatigue during workouts.  Other benefits include higher energy efficiency, physical capacity, and overall mood.  Personally, the repetitive nature of my choice of music helps me to maintain proper breathing and manage my timing.  Also, most workout classes like Zumba, spinning, or even yoga use music to help make the experience more enjoyable.

Beyond listening, learning to play a musical instrument can enhance brain activity and the ability to master tasks involving language, memory, skill and attention.  Research also says that activities like karaoke with friends relieves stress, contributing to one’s overall health and well-being.

In my research, I found that scientists have just scratched the surface on the relationship between music and health.  However, we don’t have to wait for all the studies and tests to know and understand music’s basic impact on our wellness journeys.  If it keeps me on track with my health and fitness goals, then it can’t hurt to incorporate music in more ways.  So next stop on my personal wellness journey is to create a series of playlists for myself for different areas in my life.  Next week, we’ll start with a motivational mix to help us get through our 2019 workout regimen.

In the meantime, click the link to enjoy a past playlist Love, Light & Lemon Drops that will help you to motivate and de-stress in the new year.

Trey Payadue is a contributing blogger and curator of music for The Black Unicorn Project. He was raised on the west bank of the New Orleans Metropolitan Area in the small town of Marrero, Louisiana. Brought up in the Black Catholic church, Trey was completely immersed in New Orleans music and Black culture through local fairs and famous celebrations like Mardi Gras, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, and the Essence Fest. He was also exposed to various styles of music, such as gospel, pop, rock, funk, hip-hop, bounce and his first love, rhythm & blues, at a young age. His inherent love and appreciation, paired with his exposure to New Orleans Culture and events, ignited an infectious passion for music. Trey quickly became known as “The Music Man”, amateur house party DJ and the mixtape go-to guy for new music. Currently, Trey juggles a 9-5 while moonlighting as a curator of good music, a patron of popular music and Black culture, and a student of where all three intersect. Follow him on Instagram & Twitter @SumthinSevere and get access to shared playlists on Spotify.

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