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Use Music to Improve Your Health
You know that listening to music makes you feel good. But did you know that relaxing to your favorite tunes also boosts your health in a major way? In fact, the benefits of music are myriad. Researchers from Italy and the United Kingdom recently discovered that listening to slow-tempo songs lowers blood pressure. Other European studies found that patients who listen to their favorite music before, during, and/or after heart procedures like angioplasty experience less anxiety than those who don’t incorporate music into their treatment.
Other research shows that listening to music quells stress and helps to reduce feelings of depression. And if that weren’t enough, researchers have found that music has analgesic properties that help people cope with pain.
“The primary health benefits of music come from its mood-boosting effects,” says Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., a health psychologist and educator at Stanford University, who has studied the effects of music. She also teaches people how to use music to improve their health. “A positive mood triggers a wide range of physiological responses: lowered heart rate and blood pressure, improved immune response, and reduced experience of pain,” she says.
Then there’s the stress factor. Because music makes you feel good, you’re less vulnerable to both the direct, immediate effects of stress—like getting into an argument with your spouse—and the longer-term consequences of chronic stress, such as heart disease, depression, and a sluggish immune system, McGonigal says.
Even better? There’s no need to listen to mellow Mozart if you’re not a fan of that type of music. “Research shows that music you enjoy and are familiar with works best, so go with whatever puts you in a good mood,” McGonigal says. “It doesn’t even have to be super-relaxing. Up-tempo tunes, music with inspiring lyrics, or songs that remind you of who you are, are all good choices. Music that reminds you of a positive memory is especially powerful.”
Researchers aren’t exactly sure how long the benefits last after listening to a song. But McGonigal speculates they go far beyond the three- to five-minute tune. “Think of it as a ripple effect,” she says. “If you listen to music you enjoy in the morning, you’re in a better mood on your commute to work, which will reduce your road rage and keep your blood pressure in check as a result.”
The one thing researchers are sure about: To reap the rewards of music, you have to listen to it on a regular basis. “Getting your daily dose is a must, even if it’s just one song when you’re doing the dishes or driving to the store,” McGonigal says.
Continued on Page 2: Mood-Boosting Music