June is African American Music Appreciation Month and the 2020 recognition jumped off with music expressing mixed emotions of sadness, anger and melancholy in many folks. In musing over changes in society, music often becomes the playlist of life experiences. We may not think about it, but music plays a role in contributing to mental and physical health.
Lifestyle changes to move more and eat less means slipping exercise of some type into your daily routine. It is recommended that you get in at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day. Can you imagine the challenge of fitting exercise into your schedule sans the music? Some folks choose stepping out to walk, others sign up for the nearest organized fitness class and others enjoy slipping on dancing shoes to Step, Salsa or Electric Slide. Though it’s not a scientific observation, I’ve been known to drop an aerobics class when the playlist from the instructor is not tracking to a motivating beat.
There have been a number of studies exploring music as medicine. Music has positive effects on reducing stress and anxiety, lowering blood pressure, aiding in pain management and encouraging rhythmic movement. In addition to music’s positive impact on well-being, music enjoyment elicits dopamine release. Dopamine is the chemical in the brain that affects emotions, movement and the sense of pleasure and pain. Dopamine release has also been linked to increasing motivation, which has been linked to learning and memory.
Stress Less and Listen More
Listening to music you enjoy can reduce the levels of the hormone cortisol in the body. Cortisol is an essential hormone that is released in the body. It is typically released in response to events and circumstances such as waking up in the morning, exercising, and acute stress. Stress can cause illness and disease. One study found that people who participated in making music by playing percussion instruments or singing have their immune system boosted more than if they passively listened to music.