Music and Mental Health Benefits
Most people recognize the relationship between music and emotional well being, since experiencing a dampened or elevated mood while listening to music is a common experience. Yet music and mental health research has shown that, while passively listening to music certainly has its benefits, actively performing it has even more. Here’s how music performance impacts and strengthens mental health.
Improves Cognitive Development
Studies show that children who play an instrument enhance the motor areas of the brain because of the coordination and control that performing music requires. Learning to play an instrument at an early age also improves the portion of the cerebral cortex related to attention control, working memory, planning, and organization. Performing additionally develops self-awareness in children, which translates into better social skills.
Improves Mood and Helps to Cope With Mental Illness
Releases a Mood-Boosting Hormone
Have you ever thought about what hormones fire when performing music? Listening to or performing music releases a hormone called dopamine in the brain. This “feel-good” hormone is triggered by anything that gives pleasure, like eating candy or receiving gifts. Studies show that listening to your favorite music can raise your dopamine levels by nine percent; the “chill” you experience during a good song represents the apex of the dopamine surge. It’s easy to imagine how much more the thrill of performing music might increase your dopamine levels.
Combats Forms of Mental Illness
A Belfast study shows that music therapy (which involves performance) reduces anxiety and depression in children, teens, and even older adults. A similar Norwegian study reports that “people who… play a musical instrument generally feel healthier and are less depressed than those who don’t.”
Because playing an instrument is a skill, it also helps to bolster low self-esteem by imparting a sense of achievement. The dopamine surge and good mood that comes with performing can be a healthy way to cope with low mood or forms of mental illness.
Physical Benefits Translate into Psychological Benefits
Music and mental health are also linked to physical activity, whether you’re marching across a football field with a thirty-pound tuba or sitting in a chair behind a cello. Playing music requires sitting up straight and, at the very least, holding up your arms, which works the back, chest, shoulders, and arms. This physical activity releases endorphins in the brain, helping to reduce depression.
Protects Against Dementia and Cognitive Decline
Studies show that playing a musical instrument can also help protect against dementia and other forms of cognitive decline in seniors. In one case, musicians were 64% less likely to develop cognitive impairment. This is because performing engages a variety of mental processes involving the sensory and motor systems.Performing music provides far more than just learning a skill or appreciating the fine arts. If you’re a Boston resident interested in reaping the mental health benefits of performing music, visit the Community Music Center of Boston (CMCB) and consider enrolling in a music class today. You can also support the nonprofit organization so that all local residents can enjoy these benefits.