Think back to when you were a teenager or a young adult…
Like most teens, you probably spent most of your time battling your angsty teenage hormones, memorising your friends’ phone numbers, waiting for your dial-up internet connection to work (only for your sibling to start using the phone…argh!..) and listening to amazing songs like ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’, ‘Creep’ or ‘‘Metal Mickey’ on repeat.
We identified with these songs so strongly because they allowed us to grow into our identities as we transitioned towards adulthood.
They put the lyrics to our experiences.
They touched our souls.
They helped us get through bad times like breakups with boyfriends or girlfriends, and allowed the good times to feel even better.
Music is awesome for that.
But despite our teenage love of music, somehow it gets kind of forgotten along the way.
We stop filling our ears and our hearts with the music that we love.
Perhaps it’s just because we get overwhelmed with busyness and obligations. We leave the freedom of our teenage years behind and find ourselves heading to uni, getting responsible careers and eventually starting families too. Listening to music can often seem like a luxury that we don’t have time to indulge in anymore.
Today I want to encourage you to revive your old habits. To drag those old CDs, cassettes and vinyl records out of the loft, brush off the dust and start listening to them once again. Or better still, get yourself on YouTube or Spotify and find something new to get you feeling inspired
You’ll be amazed at how much happier you’ll feel, and how your body will benefit too.
Let me explain…
Why does music matter?
Music matters because it’s part of being human.
As far as we know, no other creature on this planet responds to music in the same way as we do.
No other creature gets nostalgic when one of their favourite old songs comes on the radio.
…Or feels strangely uplifted when they hear Mars from Holst’s Planet Suite (go on, admit it now…).
…Or feels like they could take on the world when they listen to Eye of the Tiger (ha!)
…Or wants to go surfing, sit by a campfire and play guitar when they hear Riptide….
Music affects our brains and bodies on an incredibly deep level, even if we’re doing nothing more than just sitting and listening quietly.
So, how does music affect us?
For a long time, scientists didn’t know exactly why music is so entwined with the human experience.
But recent studies have suggested that it has a lot to do with how music affects our brain chemicals. When we listen to music, our brains release a whole cocktail of these chemicals, including dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin which help us feel happy, secure and uplifted.
These are the same chemicals which are released when we fall in love, cuddle our kids, eat our favourite foods, go on holiday somewhere awesome, or get a promotion at work.
It’s no wonder we love music so much.
Here are some more of the benefits, as proven by scientific types.
#1. It makes us feel happy
Yep, we already know this one. Listening to our favourite songs can really help blow away the cobwebs, lift your mood and get you feeling happier. As long as you listen to happy and upbeat music, you’re bound to feel good.
#2: It reduces anxiety
Studies suggest that listening to music during times of stress can reduce anxiety levels by up to 65%
Perhaps this is why increasing numbers of doctors and dentists play calming music for patients in their waiting rooms.
You can enjoy these benefits whether you’re feeling nervous about your upcoming driving test, revising for some important exams, feeling overwhelmed by the stress in your life, or living with an anxiety disorder.
#3. It helps us get over heartbreak and loss
Remember when you were dumped by your boyfriend or girlfriend and it felt like the world had ended? So help get you through, you lost yourself in melancholy tunes, and felt your heart break all over again as your musical idols sang your pain…
Well, even though you might feel embarrassed when you look back at it, it turns out that listening to sad music did actually help.
According to new research, it works because we feel that someone understands what we’re going through, which in turn helps calm the turmoil we are feeling inside.
#4: It helps keep us healthy
Forget ‘an apple a day’, it’s actually music that can help keep you healthy.
According to one very interesting study, this is because music increases levels of one particular type of immune cell which helps keep your immune system in tip-top shape. This will keep you safe from winter bugs and infections, help keep obesity at bay and help you sleep better, enjoy more energy, and possibly even fight cancer.
Additionally, music has been shown to reduce levels of the stress hormone, cortisol in the body. Cortisol is one hormone which can cause or worsen many problems for our bodies, including hormonal imbalances, obesity, heart problems and more.
How to restart the habit of listening to music
Convinced yet about the health benefits? Yeah, I thought you would be. Because science says that, aside from making us feel awesome, music really does boast some bona fide health benefits.
The only problem is it’s not always easy to find a way to listen to music again, especially if you have kids or a hectic career.
Here are a few ways I recommend you can get started:
Create an uplifting playlist
First up, create a playlist that makes you feel awesome, even when you’ve had a really shitty day and you’re ready to throttle someone.
Make sure it features plenty of your favourite songs, perhaps throw in something with a rock flavour (so you can scream along and get it off your chest) and make sure you keep it with you for moments of emergency!
And also a ‘chill’ playlist
Then turn your attention to creating a playlist which calms you down if you’re feeling anxious, struggling to wind down at the end of the day, or just looking for something chilled.
Experts suggest that you should range for somewhere between 60-80 bpm, which is the average resting heart rate.
Here’s a great list of suggested tracks and here’s a great website that will help you find the bpm of your favourite songs.
Get more music into your life
Grab any opportunity to listen to music with both hands and see how much better you feel.
Pop tunes on when you wake up, or when you’re in the shower. Introduce your kids to your favourite bands (even if they wrinkle their noses in disgust!). Play music in your car. Throw on your headphones and go for a run. Listen whilst you do your household chores. Listen to background music when you work.
Find what works for you and then do it. It will make such a difference. 🙂
Stand up and dance!
Don’t be afraid of turning up the tunes and dancing! You’ll feel amazing and might discover a brand new passion for dance.
Go to music venues on your nights out
Nothing beats live music for getting you feeling good. When I lived in Havana, Cuba for several months, I’d go to the local music venues every single night and have an amazing time!
What kind of music do you enjoy? Where could you go to listen to live music?
In most towns and cities around the world, you’ll find anything from large international concerts, right through to local, traditional gigs. Enjoy!
Make music of your own!
Did you play a musical instrument when you were a kid? Do you still play now? Studies say that this could be one of the most beneficial things you could do for your mental health.
Like many, I was a keen pianist, guitarist and singer in my youth, but I soon gave it up as my responsibilities grew. Perhaps it’s time for me to dust off my guitar…how about you?
So if you’ve forgotten your music collection, stopped putting your favourite songs on loud and forgotten how to dance, it’s time to start again.
Rediscover your old faves, uncover some awesome new ones and I promise you’ll put that smile on your face again and get healthier in the process!