Enjoy the Sound of Music: It’s Good for You!

By Olivia Noel, B.A.

Music is powerful. Not only is it an art form, but it is also a method of communication. It can transform our mood, take us back in time to a specific moment, or remind us of a certain person. Throughout history, music has been present in most, if not all, cultures. This is not surprising because, in addition to sounding beautiful, it can also be good for us. Both listening to and actively making music can benefit people of all ages, not just children and adolescents.

Music has been shown to help improve episodic memory (remembrances that can be explicitly stated, such as events and names). For example, in one study adults over 65 years old were split into two groups and asked to memorize 42 words. One group had jazz music playing in the background and the other group sat in silence. After the groups learned these words, they were presented with the original 42 words as well as 42 new words. Then they were asked whether they had seen the word before and if music had been playing in the background when they saw it. Results showed that participants in the group that had listened to music performed better on the task than those who had not listened to music. Researchers suggested that the music may have helped the memory encoding process become more efficient.

In addition to benefiting memory, music is also good for general well-being and quality of life. One study showed that participation in weekly arts programs (such as music programs) resulted in better health, fewer doctor visits, and increased positive responses on measures of mental health, to name a few. Multiple studies also have found that actively participating in music produces feelings of pleasure and enjoyment, and the challenge of learning new musical skills creates a sense of pride and accomplishment.

Finally, music can also increase a person’s social interactions. Although music can be enjoyed alone (through headphones, singing in the car or shower, or dancing around the kitchen), it can also be a group activity. Attending a concert can promote social interaction with your individual group as well as other attendees. Many people also choose to participate in local orchestras, bands, or choirs via church or other community groups. Being a part of a group provides a sense of inclusion, promoting connections while working with others toward a shared goal. It requires paying attention to what is going on around you and how your part combines with others to create beautiful harmonies and soaring melodies.

Music is all around us. It entertains us and can help improve our functioning and well-being. We can connect with other people by making music with them or discovering and sharing artists and songs that we love. Some music makes us want to cry and some music makes us want to dance. So sing along or kick up your heels; just enjoy!

Olivia Noel is a musician and UCCS clinical psychology master’s student training at the UCCS Aging Center. For more information, contact her at onoel@uccs.edu or call the Aging Center at 719-255-8002.

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