Lexington Health Network

Group 6 Created with Sketch.

7 ways music is medicine for your mind

Children who have taken music lessons enjoy a “profound” and lasting impact to the brain according to neuropsychologist Brenda Hanna­-Pladdy of Emory University in Atlanta. Pladdy continued her thought by explaining that children who have musical training created additional neural connections during childhood that can “last a lifetime and help compensate for cognitive declines later on in life.”

Music is Brain Food

More than 15 years ago, Harvard neurologist Gottfried Schlaug reported that the brains of adult professional musicians had more gray matter in their brains than those of non-musicians.

Alison Balbag, a professional harpist who began musical training at the age of five, holds a doctorate in music, and is currently earning her Ph.D. in gerontology (with a special focus on the impact of music on health throughout the lifespan) at the University of Southern California adds to Schlaug’s findings and said, “What’s unique about playing an instrument is that it requires a wide array of brain regions and cognitive functions to work together simultaneously, in both right and left hemispheres of the brain.” 

But, I Never Took Music Lessons!

Research at John Hopkins Medical shows that just listening to music is a great mind tool as it provides a complete workout for your brain. Other research found a number of benefits offered by listening to music that include;

  • Reduction in anxiety


  • Reduction in blood pressure


  • Reduction in pain level


  • Improved quality of sleep


  • Improved mood


  • More mental alertness


  • Improved memory

So, even if you never studied music by learning to play an instrument, music benefits are still within your reach. One physician at John Hopkins stated, “If you want to keep your brain engaged throughout the aging process, listening to or playing music is a great tool. It provides a total brain workout.”

Your Mind is Boosted Daily by Listening to Music

Though research about the effects of music on an older brain is interesting, how to listen may be elusive. Here are some tips to get you started listening to music.

If you were a flower child of the sixties and love the oldies from that time, get some CDs or downloads from that era. Listening to familiar music brings back memories from your teens and twenties. But, check with you kids and your grandkids as to what music they listen to – then try listening to some of their music since new music challenges the brain differently from the way that music you are familiar with does. In fact, when you first listen to some new music it may be less than pleasurable as your brain is unaccustomed to hearing new melodies and lyrics.

Music is a great way for exercising your mind and you can do it by yourself in your home, with a group, at a concert or in the garden. Many of today’s smartphones have radio software so you can listen wherever you go.

Pay attention to how your body reacts to different types of music – you may find that Hip-Hop music is not good for your concentration while classical music is. Create a music playlist for each activity you want a musical background for. Tasks include,

  • Concentrating


  • Exercising


  • Relaxing


  • Just for pleasure

When these things are done to musical accompaniment your brain is getting its daily dose of growth.

Want more tips on living a fulfilling life in retirement? Download “5 Ways to Stay Active in Retirement”