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21 Hidden Health Benefits Music Lovers Wish You Knew

The right notes can dampen appetite, relax blood vessels, and improve brain focus.

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health benefits of music are great for stressPhoto Credit: Shutterstock

Favourite tunes keep you calm

Listening to their favourite music lowered anxiety among ICU patients by about one third, according to an Ohio State University study. Not just any tunes—it had to be familiar and comforting pieces, according to researchers. The health benefits of music go way beyond relaxation. Keep reading for science-backed ways your favourite tunes can help you lose weight, sleep better and more.

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Woman relaxing after work, eating ice cream and listening to music

Mood music makes you eat less

When Hardee’s gave one of its restaurants a fine-dining makeover—including soft lighting and jazz—diners ate about 18 percent less and reported enjoying their food more, according to a Cornell study in the journal Psychological Reports. It also has a lot to do with being more mindful while you’re eating, too.

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Male student sitting at table with books and laptop. Young man studying in library reading book.

Inspiring instrumentals improve your mental focus

Uplifting concertos from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons can boost mental alertness, according to research from Northumbria University in the United Kingdom. When young adults were given a task that required intense concentration, they did better while listening to the bright “Spring” concerto versus the slower and more somber “Autumn” one. Natural supplements are another way to boost energy and focus.

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Good music soothes and relaxes your blood vessels

Listening to music that brings you joy causes blood vessels to expand, increasing blood flow and improving cardio­vascular health, a University of Maryland study found. The average upper-arm blood vessel diameter of people in the study increased 26 percent after listening to joyful music. A separate review of 26 studies covering almost 1,400 heart disease patients found that music 
reduced heart rate, blood pressure, and anxiety. Don’t miss these tips for fighting off an anxiety attack.

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Group Of School Children Singing In Choir Together

Group singing makes you happy

British researchers recently surveyed 375 people who sang in a choir, sang alone, or played on a sports team. All the activities contributed to greater emotional well-being, but people in choirs reported feeling happier than those who belted out tunes solo. Chorus members also rated their groups as more meaningful social experiences than athletes did with their sports teams. The physical act of synchrony—acting in time with others—or choral singing could promote feelings of unity. Be sure to use these strategies if you’re looking to improve your willpower.

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Grandpa learning his grandson to play guitar in closeup

Playing an instrument may protect brain sharpness later in life

The more years middle-aged and older adults spent playing musical instruments as children, the faster their brains responded to speech sounds during an experiment, according to a study in the Journal of Neuroscience. A slower response could be indicative of how ably adults interpret speech. “Being a millisecond faster may not seem like much, but the brain is very sensitive to timing. A millisecond compounded over millions of neurons can make a real difference in the lives of older adults,” Michael Kilgard, a University of Texas at Dallas brain researcher who was not involved in the study, commented in a press release. Don’t miss these simple everyday tasks you can do to boost your brain power. 

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Little girl playing drum at home.Child development concept.

Music classes make kids more cooperative

Preschoolers who sang and played instruments as a group were a whopping 30 times more likely to help others in subsequent tasks that measured their helpfulness and problem-solving abilities, compared with a control group of kids who listened to a story, British researchers reported in 2013. Pop singer Britney Spears can’t help but dance when her favourite song comes on.

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Two trendy attractive young woman singing along to the music as they drive along in the car through town viewed through the open side window

A mellow playlist may ease road rage

Feel an angry outburst coming on after a driver cuts you off, or as traffic starts to build? A quick switch to mellow music helped drivers calm down and make fewer mistakes during an experiment in a simulator, according to research published in 2013 in the journal Ergonomics.

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Boy Relaxing In Hospital Bed With Digital Tablet

Music therapy may help teens cope with cancer

Teenagers undergoing cancer treatment who joined a music therapy program in the hospital showed improved coping skills and more resilience when compared to a control group of patients who received audio books. The patients, who were undergoing stem cell transplants, worked with music therapists to write song lyrics and produce videos. “Making music videos allows these patients to project their feelings through another outlet,” Shawna Grissom, director of child life at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, told HealthDay. “It gives them a sense of control, a medium in which they can express themselves.” Here’s what your eyes can reveal about your health. 

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Creative businessman using computer while listening music at desk in office

Your work will get done faster

Listening to happy music at 
work can help you complete 
tasks more quickly, especially if you’re doing something repetitive such as checking e-mail or filing documents. One study showed that the accuracy and efficiency of surgeons improved when they worked with the music of their choice in the background. Cornell University researchers also found that upbeat tunes help workers cooperate and make group decisions that contribute to the good of the team. Get motivated to get your work done thanks to these inspiring song lyrics.

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Asian women are listening to music and she sings in the room happily sleeping on the carpet

Stress levels will go down

Music decreases levels of the stress hormone cortisol just 
as well as massage therapy does, 
according to a small 2010 study. Scientists randomly assigned anxious patients to listen to music either during massage therapy or while lying 
in a dim room. After three months, those who just listened to music experienced the same drop in anxiety as those who also got massages. Do you tend to get stressed out often? Your zodiac sign may be influencing your health. 

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Breast augmentation, enlargement, enhancement. Surgeon and his assistant performing cosmetic surgery in hospital operating room. In mask wearing during medical procedure

Music can help during surgery

Listening to music before surgery has been shown to ease anxiety and limit the need for sedatives. 
After surgery, it helps reduce pain. An analysis of 73 studies published in the Lancet in 2015 confirmed that listening to music before, during, 
or after surgery improves anxiety 
and pain levels, which in turn means less pain medication. Here are 7 more ways to reduce pain, without painkillers.

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art school, creativity and people concept - student girl or artist with earphones, easel and paint brush painting at studio

Music makes you more creative

People come up with more creative solutions when they listen to happy, upbeat music than when they sit in silence, according to researchers from the Netherlands and Australia. It may be because music improves your brain’s flexibility or because it relaxes you enough for 
the creative juices to flow. But don’t play the music too loudly; research also has found that moderate volume provides the creativity sweet spot. In some cases, procrastination can actually be beneficial.

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It gets dopamine flowing

When you listen to music, your brain releases dopamine, the same neuro­transmitter that’s released when you eat chocolate, have sex, or use cocaine. It’s also associated with being in love. One small study found that just the anticipation of knowing the best part of a song is coming 
can get the dopamine flowing. Also, try these simple ways to sneak meditation into your everyday routine.

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Attractive sports woman on running track is listening to music with mobile phone in hand using earphones.

It makes you more comfortable

Feel like quitting a workout? Whether you’re running, biking, or walking, you’ll go farther if you pump up the jams, studies have found. Music distracts you from your discomfort and motivates you to stay with the beat. The effect is so profound that the author of a 2012 review examining the psychological effects of music on exercise called music “a type of legal performance-enhancing drug.” In fact, there are as many as 10 reasons why you should always workout to music.

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Healthy fitness man using smartphone in the gym, texting message

Music gives you power

That rush of energy you feel when you put on your best power song 
is real. College-age men who were studied doing squats while listening to a favorite song took off more explosively and performed reps at greater speeds than those doing them in 
silence, one study found. People also sprint faster and hold heavy weights longer when listening to music. Get pumped up with our Canadian workout playlist.

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Young smiling african woman listening music with headphones and smartphone and sitting in bed

It aids sleep

Lullabies aren’t just for babies. Listening to music before bed can help you fall asleep faster, wake up less often during the night, and feel more rested in the morning, according to the National Sleep Foundation. In one study conducted in Taiwan, seniors with sleep problems who listened to 45 minutes of soft, slow music before bed reported a 35 percent improvement in the duration of their shut-eye and less dysfunction throughout the day. Need a good night’s rest? You’ll want to know if one of these strange things is ruining your sleep.

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Cute pupil playing flute in classroom at the elementary school

Music heals

Music has been used to heal 
for centuries, and now we’re learning why it works. The latest meta-analysis of 400 studies finds that listening to music promotes 
the body’s production of an antibody (called immunoglobulin A) that 
attacks viruses and bacteria, as well as natural “killer cells,” which kill 
invading viruses and cancerous cells. Here’s how to practice self-care without having to spend a dime.

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It makes time fly by

Time does fly when you’re listening to music: Scientists have shown repeatedly that people judge 
a period of waiting as shorter when music is playing. Retailers use that to their advantage, playing music so you stay longer and spend more. For instance, more drinks and food are sold in bars and restaurants when music (especially slow music) is played. And grocery sales increase by 38 percent when the background music is slow.

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Young girl and little boy playing on music instruments

A nice melody helps reduce pain

In one study, adults who 
focused on childhood melodies while receiving safe electric shocks decreased their pain by 17 percent overall. Other studies show that music may reduce pain for fibromyalgia and cancer patients. It works on kids, too: Children who listened to soothing and/or upbeat music while having 
an IV inserted reported less pain and distress compared with those who had the procedure in silence, according to a study in JAMA Pediatrics.

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Music for relax

It helps Alzheimer’s patients remember

Maybe you’ve heard about ­Alzheimer’s patients coming alive when they hear a song from their past. Studies show that music helps them retrieve memories, communicate more effectively, and remember who they are. Singing is particularly powerful; George Mason University researchers demonstrated that 
Alzheimer’s patients who regularly belt out their favorites may boost their cognitive function over time. Next, check out the bizarre sleep habits of some of your favourite celebrities.

Originally Published on Reader's Digest