When you need a pick-me-up, help relaxing after a hard day or even a distraction from pain while working on a project, turn on some music.
Music activates your limbic system, the “emotional brain,” which controls emotions, memories and the senses. Music triggers the release of chemicals that can influence your sleep cycles, moods and other factors that contribute to a range of physical and emotional benefits.
Research suggests music may be especially beneficial for people with osteoarthritis or fibromyalgia, according to a review of several studies published in 2015 in the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology. Studies showed improvements in stress, depression, heart rate and pain.
Just how the music helps you may vary, depending on what you listen to. For instance, soothing songs with melodic progressions from low to high notes may be the best tension-reducing tones, according to research in the Journal of Music Therapy. Other research, published in Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, indicates rhythms between 120 and 140 beats per minute aid endurance and motivation during exercise.
Playlist for Pain
A review of several studies published online in 2015 in The Lancet found that music helps reduce patients’ post-operative pain and use of pain killers, no matter what kind they listen to. And according to a 2003 study published in Journal of Advanced Nursing, people’s pain levels dropped 52% when they listened to 20 minutes of relaxing music a day.
Music helps change pain perception by taking your focus off of what hurts, says music therapist Kimberly Sena Moore, an assistant professor in the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami in Florida. The key to maximizing these benefits is to listen to what you love, she says.
Create a Playlist
Find music to suit your mood or create a playlist with one of the many free apps available. Songza, Pandora and iHeartRadio are some that offer music from curated stations, while apps like Spotify or Google Play Music allow you to choose from existing playlists or create your own.
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