Powerful Benefits of Music Amid Pandemic

Dr. Nina Radcliff

Eighty-one percent of Americans reported music has helped them cope, sleep better and be more productive during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new research. In fact, it has helped so much, that those surveyed reported listening to even more music, daily.

A poll of 2,000 Americans (conducted by OnePoll in conjunction with HARMAN International) found music and virtual concerts are allowing respondents to also feel connected to one another during this time. The study found that the lion’s share (60%) reported music is their go-to coping mechanism in any stressful situation (others noting exercising, reading).

Facts are, utilizing the wonderful tool of music will help you live a healthier life and make demanding times in our life more manageable. 

For decades people have reported how music has made a big difference in their lives – often referring to it as “comfort food.” Research has shown that music has a profound effect on your body and mind. Listening to music benefits us individually and collectively. Here’s what research tells us about the power of music to improve our physical, mental, and emotional health.

  • Stress/Anxiety Buster: When stressed, the body responds with the release of the hormone cortisol which prepares us for “fight or flight.” Cortisol increases blood pressure, heart rate, blood sugar levels, and decreases our digestive tract function. When listening to music, the “feel good” neurotransmitters dopamine and the “happy” chemical serotonin are released in the brain giving a sense of pleasure and boosting your mood. Studies show that it also affects brain waves and promotes a calm, meditative state, which, in turn, can decrease cortisol levels. 
  • Relaxation/Sleep Aid. Music calms the mind when racing, relaxes the body, and can serves as white noise (steady sound used to mask unwanted sounds), thus improving sleep quality, duration, amount of time it takes to fall asleep and the number of sleep disturbances. Listening to music to treat insomnia—as opposed to medications—serves as a convenient method without side-effects. 
  • Exercise Enhancer.It can help boost workout motivation and enhance endurance—meaning you’re more likely to workout. Experts believe it’s partly due to being distracted with the beat/lyrics or syncing the body with the tempo. Too, there’s evidence that listening to music enhances post-workout recovery.  
  • Improves Memory.  It has positive impact on your memory. And while music doesn’t reverse memory loss experienced by those with Alzheimer’s disease, music has been found to slow cognitive decline.
  • Mood/Emotion Balance. Helps people regulate their emotions with the power to change moods and process their feelings.
  • Helps Heart Health. Along with helping to get you moving and all the other benefits mentioned, studies show that listening to music can alter your breathing and heart rate, and blood pressure, depending on the music’s intensity and tempo.

Maximizing Musical Experience. While doing a project, find music you like that fits the occasion and motivates or draws you to your work. And while music offers benefits almost any time, by giving it your full attention, you can use it mindfully and purposefully:

  • Dim the lights, turning off electronics, and getting comfy. You can add other sensory stimuli (e.g., light a candle, essential oil diffuser, or curl up with a heated blanket). 
  • As you listen: 
    • Bring your attention to the rhythm, different instruments or sounds at different times, pauses, the tune, background harmony, and varying shifts in low and high notes.  
    • Note how the music is affecting you – your breathing, heart rate, body’s rhythm, emotions, and thoughts. 
    • If you become distracted with the world (e.g., things to do, problems with a relationship, finances, or health), acknowledge them and that they exist, but right now, bring your attention back to the tunes. 
    • Just 15-20 minutes a day can work wonders, helping you to relax and reset 

Passive or active. Whether you listen while working, sing, hum, dance, or move through projects—all, strengthen the power of the music to affect you. You garner the benefits in any form.

Playing an instrument can improve your concentration, provide a sense of accomplishment, enjoyment, and build confidence. Too, the process of playing (or learning to play) an instrument can polish your focus while providing stress relief and a sense of accomplishment. 

Music Connects. Researches underscore that a powerful function of music is to create a feeling of cohesion or social connectedness. It’s a powerful way of uniting people like through national anthems, hymns, chants, lullabies, and love songs. It can also enhance your social circle (e.g. social media, apps, groups). 

It’s no wonder why people are lauding the power of music – particularly at this unprecedented time. Research shows it can help regulate emotion, make us feel connected and manage the physiological response to stress. Enjoy!!

Author Profile
Dr. Nina Radcliff

Dr. Nina Radcliff is dedicated to her profession, her patients and her community, at large. She is passionate about sharing truths for healthy, balanced living as well as wise preventive health measures.

She completed medical school and residency training at UCLA and has served on the medical faculty at The University of Pennsylvania. She is a Board Certified Anesthesiologist. Author of more than 200 textbook chapters, research articles, medical opinions and reviews; she is often called upon by media to speak on medical, fitness, nutrition, and healthy lifestyle topics impacting our lives, today.