The Power of Music for The Mind

A survey involving over 3,000 participants has shown that the average American listens to around four hours and five minutes of audio every day, partly because ubiquitous connectivity makes it so easy to access. Research has shown that music benefits children and adults with depression by increasing motivation and self-esteem and reducing anxiety. It also plays an important role in psychiatric health care and boosts mental capacity. However, the magic of music lies not only in the listening but also in the playing. In this post, we discuss the many proven mental benefits of playing a musical instrument, highlighting a few good choices for starters.

Music and brain development in children

In a study by the University of Vermont, researchers reported findings on ‘the largest investigation of the association between playing a musical instrument and brain development.’ In the study, a team of child psychiatrists found that musical training helps children focus their attention, reduces anxiety, and promotes better emotional control. Playing music alters the motor areas of the brain because it requires coordination, organization, and control. They concluded that music could also affect parts of the brain involved in inhibitory control and emotional processing.

Music and adults

Another study published last year by Baycrest Health Scientists researchers discovered why playing a musical instrument can boost listening skills and stave off cognitive decline. The research showed that when a person learns to play an instrument, their brain waves change in such a way that their listening and hearing skills are improved. Musical training stimulates the brain into rewiring, thus compensating for conditions that can interfere with their ability to perform various tasks. The study involved playing on a Tibetan bowl, but other instruments (such as the guitar or piano) bring similar benefits. By picking an instrument you are naturally drawn to and ensuring you have the right equipment, you can begin to reap the rewards of musical instruction.

Which instrument to pick?

In the U.S., the top instruments chosen for musical training include piano, the guitar, and the violin. These days, you don’t need a large piano to tickle the ivories for the first time; smaller electric varieties care catered to children and adults alike and cost as little as $200. Guitars are great because of their versatility. They are easy to carry around, can be played with a pick or your hands, and make a great addition to parties. An acoustic guitar for beginners can cost around $30, which means they are affordable for all budgets. Violins are a little more challenging to play, but perfect for the virtuoso whose soul is uplifted by listening to Mozart or Beethoven. For just $60, a wooden violin can be yours.

Music boosts alertness

Studies have shown that musicians tend to be more mentally alert. In a study by scientists at the University of Montreal, musicians were found to have faster auditory, tactile, and audio-tactile reaction times, which is vital for a host of additional day-to-day tasks. The study also showed that musicians respond better to multi-sensory stimuli.

If musical training has always appealed, rest assured that it wields profound benefits that to way beyond enjoyment. In addition to boosting alertness, helping soothe depression and anxiety, and quelling stress, music is also a great way to keep on your toes, from your childhood right through to your senior years.

Photo by Kael Bloom on Unsplash