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Healing Notes: The Benefits of Music

April 28, 2015

It is said that music is the language of the soul. As poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once so eloquently put it, “Music is the universal language of mankind.” Every culture has had it and for thousands of years it has influenced humans in various ways. From primitive ceremonies, customs, religious practices and entertainment, to modern day medical treatments, if you consider the many ways in which music touches our daily lives its impact rings loud and clear.
 
There is power in music. It moves us, literally and figuratively. It brings us together and sets us apart. It connects us to a feeling; a mood; a memory. It can evoke feelings of sadness and distress, yet also comfort and inspire. Music touches each of us differently, yet bonds us together. It can convey feelings and emotions that words may not. Music is the soundtrack of our lives.
 
Researchers agree that music has many positive health benefits. Although it has been established that music education is advantageous to young people, only recently has its vast potential with the human brain been discovered. Many areas of the brain are activated when listening to music, not only the auditory processing centers, as one would assume. The movement, attention, planning and memory areas are all stimulated as well, which indicates that so much more is happening physiologically than previously thought. From babies in utero to those living with diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia later in life, music plays a part in our development and may be the key to unlocking many of our brain’s most essential talents.
 
Music is often a social experience. If you’ve ever attended a concert, theater or opera performance; if you’ve shared a dance with a loved one or a song with a friend, you have shared in this experience. Researchers have long established social connections later in life as one of the most important ingredients in the recipe for healthy aging. However, the physiological effects of music are just as significant, and are most often overlooked by all of us who don’t happen to hold a degree in neurosurgery.
 
Exposure to music has been linked to increased mental sharpness and memory, reducing anxiety and blood pressure levels, and improving mood. Studies have shown that music has many benefits, including, strengthening the heart and aiding in the recovery time of those suffering from heart disease. It can be comforting, reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is responsible for weakening the immune system, increasing risk of heart disease and interfering with learning and memory. Not to mention, music makes us want to get up and move!
 
Although there is still much more to learn and uncover about the ways in which music can fully benefit the brain, researchers are certain that the positive affects are incredible. Whether you enjoy a song on the radio, you prefer to sway with a partner, or you love to bang the drums, music touches us all. In the words of William Shakespeare, “If music be the food of love, play on.”
 
“Music is an integral part to so much of what we do at The Merion,” said Margaret Gergen, executive director. “Our residents tend to love music…both performing and sitting back and appreciating. We schedule a lot of musical entertainment to come to The Merion. One of our largest events is Opera Idol. We are also conveniently located to top notch musical venues which our residents like to visit. We are pleased but not surprised by the fact that music is healing and beneficial in addition to being enjoyable.”

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