It's Friday, so maybe you're planning on cranking up your favorite playlist today to get yourself in a weekend kind of mood. If so, you're using your tunes for their well-known ability to affect how you feel (and possibly also make you more productive). But according to science, great songs can not only help you plough through more work or get over a bad breakup, they can also actually affect how your body functions for the better.
That's one conclusion of a fascinating series of posts on the science of music recently released by UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center. Besides detailing exactly what listening to your favorite songs does to your brain and how sharing music can strengthen social bonds, one of the articles, by psychologist Jill Suttie, lays out the many ways music also makes you healthier, including:
1. Music as stress reducer
Of all the effects outlined by Greater Good, this one is perhaps the least surprising. Who hasn't experienced music's powerful ability to calm our nerves and reset our mood after a stressful day? But in case you're wondering, science has confirmed the stress-busting properties of music and documented physical changes in the body associated with these calming effects.
In one study "involving surgery patients, the stress reducing effects of music were more powerful than the effect of an orally-administered anxiolytic drug," Suttie reports. Performing music can also produce this reaction, the post adds.
2. Music as painkiller
Whether participants were facing childbirth, the agonizing disorder of fibromyalgia, or surgery, a host of studies (and many folks' personal experiences) have shown that listening to music can actually reduce our perception of pain. The conclusion of all this research, according to Greater Good? "Music is a robust analgesic." So if you're out of Tylenol, give your iTunes library a try instead.
3. Music as germ fighter
You may have heard that a tall glass of orange juice--or, more specifically, the vitamin C it contains--can help you fight off the latest bug going around the office. But so can listening to your favorite tunes, it turns out.
"Researchers looked at how music affects levels of IgA--an important antibody for our immune system's first line of defense against disease. Undergraduate students had their salivary IgA levels measured before and after 30 minutes of exposure to one of four conditions--listening to a tone click, a radio broadcast, a tape of soothing music, or silence. Those students exposed to the soothing music had significantly greater increases in IgA than any of the other conditions, suggesting that exposure to music (and not other sounds) might improve innate immunity," the post explains.
Other studies laid out in the article also support the idea that music may in fact boost immune functioning. So next time you start to feel a cold coming on, have that O.J., but maybe enjoy it while listening to some calming melodies, as well.