Thriving Together Series: How to Use Music to Support Your Well-Being

Thriving Together Use Music to Support Well-Being

By: Sarah Swift, a Mason student majoring in Communication

“Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” – Berthold Auerbach 

Enjoying music is more than just a way to have to fun. You can use music to support your well-being, since music offers a variety of powerful well-being benefits.

Have you ever had an extremely tiring day, and once you get home, all you want to do is collapse onto your couch? But since there are chores left to do, you decide to put on your favorite playlist and get to work. Suddenly, you feel energized and ready to take on the world. Behold, the power of music!

The acts of both listening to and creating music have noticeable benefits for both physical and mental health, according to multiple health studies. Evidence shows that you can strengthen several aspects of your well-being through music, including mood, sleep quality, and mindful eating.

Listening to music is a proven method to raise your mood. According to an article from Healthline, researchers have found that listening to upbeat music when feeling down can boost positive emotions, while listening to somber music can help the listener to better process their emotions. It can also help reduce stress. So, whenever you’re feeling especially stressed – such as while you’re preparing for exams – listen to your favorite music during breaks to keep your stress levels under control.

There is also evidence that listening to calming music before bedtime can improve sleep quality. A study from the Journal of Advanced Nursing observed different outcomes between listening to classical music, an audiobook, or nothing at all before bedtime. It found that listening to classical music noticeably improved sleep quality compared to listening to an audiobook or nothing at all.

Playing mellow music during mealtimes can help contribute to mindful eating, which is the act of being fully attentive to your food while eating. This can prevent overeating and increase the satisfaction felt after eating. The results from a Cornell University and Georgia Institute of Technology study claim that people who ate at dimly lit restaurants where soft music was played consumed 18 percent less food than those who ate in other restaurant atmospheres. To mimic this, try playing some soft classical music or smooth jazz in the background while eating meals at home.

Exercise itself is vital to maintaining well-being, so complementing exercise activity with music can be notably beneficial. Listening to upbeat music during workouts is an excellent way to increase motivation and endurance. The ideal tempo for workout music is somewhere between 125 and 140 beats per minute. You can listen to music while doing any sort of physical activity, like doing chores and walking to class.

Listening to background music while studying can improve cognitive performance. It positively affects information processing, speed, and memory retention. However, it is best to choose instrumental tracks instead of those with lyrics, because lyrics can be distracting. You can easily find instrumental ambient music, lo-fi music, and study playlists on YouTube and Spotify.

Learning to play an instrument can help you reap almost all of the benefits of music. A study from Johns Hopkins found “when 13 older adults took piano lessons, their attention, memory and problem-solving abilities improved, along with their moods and quality of life.” The process of learning how to play an instrument challenges your brain to interpret musical notes, almost like learning a new language does. It also helps you develop multisensory skills – the ability to process multiple senses (such as sight, sound, and touch) at once.

So, keeping in mind all of music’s benefits and how well it meshes into everyday life, music is an invaluable tool for maintaining every aspect of well-being. Be sure to take advantage of it!

Additional Resources

Any Mason student can get musically involved by joining a musical performance group, such as the Green Machine band or the Mason Symphony Orchestra, or by picking up musical performance as a solo hobby.

Mason’s Music for Well-Being Minor is open to all students – even those with minimal formal musical training. The coursework explores the connections between music and consciousness and between vibration, mindfulness, and well-being. Mason also offers a Music for Well-Being Graduate Certificate for graduate students to deepen their understanding of music and well-being.

Write one of these Thriving Together Series features! We’re looking for contributions on all topics related to well-being. Read other Thriving Together Series articles here and contact us at cwb@gmu.edu for guidelines. Thank you for helping our Mason community thrive together online!