Whether you’re road-tripping to see Cher or the Rolling Stones on tour this year, hitting the high notes with your choir, or singing along to Tears for Fears on your commute, you know music has the power to make you feel better.
“Listening to music increases feel-good chemicals in the brain, specifically a neurotransmitter called dopamine,” says Catherine Jackson, a licensed psychologist and board-certified neurotherapist based in Matteson, Illinois.
And it turns out music can do a lot more than that. Music can help you:
1. Get more from your workouts
“Listening to music significantly improves your fitness routine,” says Eddie Johnson, a certified fitness instructor based in North Miami Beach. “Music takes your mind away from the strain of exercise.”
He recommends picking something you enjoy that’s fast paced—about 130 beats per minute.
2. Strengthen your relationships
“Because of how evocative music can be, it is a particularly powerful way to connect with others,” says Jessica L. Dubron, a clinical psychologist based in Los Angeles. “Sharing love for the same band, for example, can speed up the emotional intimacy of a new relationship, or deepen an existing one.”
3. Boost your immunity
Research cited by the American Psychological Association shows that music can help increase the production of antibodies and the effectiveness of the immune system.
4. Relieve anxiety
“Listening to music can help change the thought track in our head,” says Vicky Woodruff, a licensed social worker in Baltimore. When we’re obsessing over problems, focusing on music can interrupt those recurring thoughts. “Music is a great self-care and coping skill,” she says.
6. Practice mindfulness
Playing music can keep you engaged in the present moment. “When you pick up a guitar, for instance, and deliberately play a song, you are focusing your body and mind on one activity,” Woodruff says.
7. Generate more creative ideas
One study found that participants who listened to upbeat music came up with more new ideas from new perspectives.
8. Combat emotional distress
“Music can evoke an emotion that counters what we are experiencing,” says Dubron. “For example, we can listen to “angry” music when we are feeling anxious, or uplifting music when we are feeling hopeless.”
9. Build your brainpower
“Music is great for the brain because it activates nearly every part of it, meaning the brain is making more neural connections, Jackson says. “Music increases certain mental tasks such as cognition, enhanced learning, memory, and verbal intelligence.” She says listening works, but playing an instrument has even greater brain-building benefits.
10. Reduce pain after surgery
While some of the benefits may be chalked up to placebo and distraction, a British review of more than 90 small studies found that music could reduce post-surgical pain by 10%. It could also reduce the need for anesthesia during surgery.
11. Decrease your blood pressure and heart rate
A meta-analysis of studies on music and blood pressure and heart rate found that music lowered these measures.
Some of the studies were conducted before surgery or in the intensive care unit, so researchers speculate that reducing anxiety in these stressful settings might contribute to the declines.
12. Improve recall if you have dementia
One study found that familiar music helped people with Alzheimer’s disease better remember things like their health problems, previous jobs, and plans for the day.
Sandy Silverstein of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America says, “We often use music therapy and encourage the use of music to help families impacted by Alzheimer’s disease.”
13. Recover from stroke
“Music therapy can be extremely beneficial to stroke victims,” says Fran Walfish, a family and relationship psychotherapist based in Beverly Hills. Drumming out beats can help reteach neurological wiring systems, she says.