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How Can Music Improve Our Wellbeing?

'Music is good for the soul', a saying we hear regularly, so what is it that makes music so good for us? Music is known to generate the release of both Dopamine and Oxytocin, the hormones known to influence feelings of pleasure and reward and love and social bonding respectively.

When we hear music being played it activates our auditory cortex, the part of our brain that is responsible for sound processing, which in turn activates other areas of the brain including our motor cortex (movement) and our limbic system (emotions), helping to make us want to move more and increasing our feel good hormones.

Music can give us the motivation to move and increase our wellbeing through exercise and many people find that listening to music helps them to work harder at the gym and to keep them motivated to run. Bring forth the explosion of running playlists and CD's available to download or buy. The more upbeat the music the more engaged, focused and alert we may become in the exercise and the more dopamine released the more we find pleasure and reward in our actions. Hence why so many people say they feel wonderful after a session or a couple of hours in the gym or after achieving a personal best at a 5, 10 or 15k running event.

The release of the feel good hormone oxytocin is particularly heightened when the music we hear reminds us of good times when we were younger. This is thought to be due to the fact that in our formative years the levels of oxytocin being released were at their highest. So listening to music we enjoyed then coupled with the act of dancing to music will increase the release of this hormone even more and can bring about a flooding of wonderful feelings of love and happiness. It really does go to show that dancing like no one is watching can help to keep up happier at least in the moment.

Music is also thought to help with cognition and I know from personal experience that listening to classical music played at a low level in the background when I was revising for exams helped me to stay focused and engaged in the process. It may have helped with my grades, I have no idea or evidence, but what I do know is that it did make the experience less stressful.

In addition music can help us to relax and is used in many therapeutic environments including hypnotherapy to help reduce feelings or stress and anxiety and to improve sleep. In hypnotherapy, binaural beats are often used as the two beats run at different frequencies giving the illusion of a third which helps to sooth and induce relaxation through changes in our brainwaves. However, any kind of music which has a soothing effect can help with this including sounds of nature, such as gentle waves splashing on the shore or the sounds of birdsong. The most important thing is to find what suits the individual and helps them to relax.

So music really can enhance our wellbeing by helping up to relax and sleep better, to exercise more and to generally feel good. So lets keep on dancing like no ones watching and find fun in music!


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