Whether it’s a place in the choir, a stint in a band or simply listening to the songs that have helped you through life’s ups and downs, all of us understand the unique power of music. But music is more than just an enjoyable pastime—it’s an activity that can make you smarter, happier and more productive at any age.
Brain scans of professional musicians show that their brains are a cut above the rest. For example, the areas of the brain responsible for motor control, auditory processing and spatial coordination tend to be larger. Musicians also have a larger corpus callosum— the band of nerve fibers that helps the two hemispheres of the brain communicate. Although most of us aren’t professional musicians, we can all reap the benefits of music. Research shows that anyone who plays an instrument, sings or dances benefits physically, psychologically and socially from music.
We all know what it’s like to get a mood boost when you hear your favorite song. Ever wonder why this happens? Playing and listening to music has been shown to enhance brain function by stimulating the formation of certain brain chemicals. For example, music increases the neurotransmitter dopamine, the brain’s “motivation molecule.” It also stimulates oxytocin, promoting feelings of well-being and connection with others.
Music has also been shown to reduce chronic stress by lowering the hormone cortisol. It can make you more productive and satisfied at work, too—employees who can listen to their preferred choice of music complete tasks more quickly and come up with better ideas than those who have no control over their musical choices.
Ready to enjoy the benefits? There are many options: