Making, playing, and listening to music does something magic to your brain. Most of us know that music can elicit exhilaration, joy, sadness, and a wealth of other feelings. It can uncover long-lost memories, bring back visions of the past, and ease tension at the end of a stressful day. You can use music to help rebalance your mind and body when you are feeling off kilter.
Fact: Music is one of the few activities that activates, stimulates, and uses the entire brain.
Studies have found that when we listen to harmonies, compositions, and songs we love, it helps us exercise longer and harder than we thought, and we enjoy it to boot.
I have clients pick music to fit their mood that day, and it always helps get a workout pumped up to the maximum level. Each person is different, and everyone has personal preferences. I’ve had clients that get pumped up listening to sad, melancholy music…others who love big band productions…and still others that love metal rock. It doesn’t matter as long as the music “speaks” to you in the moment.
It’s also important to update your music each time you work out. What sounds good to you on one day may not work at all on another.
Thanks to an ingeniously designed study from Germany, we know that making music also increases endurance and strength. The researchers designed gym workout machines to produce music based on how hard people worked out. The harder participants pumped the machines, the louder the music got. Compared to traditional exercisers, the music-enhanced exercisers worked out much harder and longer. Researchers speculate that it may be similar to the way fieldworkers or people on chain gangs sang as they worked. Music seems to trigger the emotional part of the brain, which is mostly unconscious, so your efforts seem diminished but returns are increased. Here are some of the scientifically proven benefits music can bring to your mind:
- Work out longer and harder.
- Reduce negative emotions and physical pain.
- Change your mood.
- Make exercise feel effortless.
- Improve sleep.
Remember, you might not like the same music every day, so check in with yourself to see what you are in the mood for. I have one client who listens to Broadway show tunes on some days, but on others she chooses classical. Another client can only listen to classic rock; as soon as I turn it on, his face lights up, and he’s ready to, well, rock. And sometimes silence is the best music. I have a client who has music piped in at work all day, so she chooses quiet and is invigorated by listening to nothing but the city sounds.
Experiment and see what works best for you. Change it up from time to time. Play a few songs and see how they make you feel. Sometimes I like movie soundtracks because it helps me connect to the creativity of the movies and characters and takes me to another place.
Click here to buy Joel Harper’s book, Mind Your Body: 4 Weeks to a Leaner, Healthier Life.