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Living well can be easier than we think with small and simple changes to our daily routines. Sometimes dramatic, positive results can happen with just the push of a button – like when we tune into the power of music.

People have long gravitated toward music with its memorable melodies and choruses…but why? What is it about songs that captivate us? Music is made up of notes, words, and rhythms, but it is far more that that. Adding music to daily life is beneficial in many ways, including better health and well-being.

Even prehistoric cultures recognized the power of music. Egyptians considered it the word of the gods. Confucius thought that the state of society was impacted by the state of music. Alexander the Great used music to motivate and relax his troops. Chinese culture values music as a way to achieve perfect harmony.

On a personal level, music can rapidly shift mood. Science sheds light on how this happens. When we listen to music, the vibrations of the song travel into the brain through nerves and activate the limbic system, one of the most primal parts of the brain that influences instinct, emotions, mood and sensations.

This stimulates other body systems including cardiovascular, neuroendocrine, and immune systems, as well as heart rate and endorphin levels. Music also touches the right side of the brain associated with creativity and imagination. No wonder one can feel wrapped up in a good song!

The Iso Principle reveals that when a person’s mood is matched with a style of music, mood changes as the music changes. A soothing song can lead to relaxation. A fast, upbeat song can make one feel more energized and active. That’s why people use active music to exercise or soothing music to rest and
restore.

Listening to music – any style of music – on a daily basis can result in a drastic decrease in pain. This is especially true for older adults. Music, through its influence on mood, can ease depression when added to one’s regular routine.

Anyone can easily use the power of music to reap these benefits:

Residents at a Mather LifeWays community in Tucson, Ariz., practice “Gestures of Joy” — an award-winning original combination of music, sign language and movement — that they perform for audiences around the Tucson area.

Music relaxes us. Listening to soothing, calming melodies can ease stress and anxiety, or help us drift off to sleep. Studies show that using music while exercising helps us work harder, longer, more diligently and remain more committed to an exercise plan. Enjoying music while working and doing chores can increase productivity, efficiency and even pure enjoyment of the job.

Music is a pleasurable, simple tool for living well, whether by boosting physical activity and productivity, or enhancing mood and reducing stress. We can live better –with just a push of a play button!

This article was prepared by the Mather LifeWays Institute on Aging. The full research paper, “Take Note(s): Living Well Through Music” is available online.

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