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Lifestyle: The Hidden Benefits of Music

Estelle completed her Bachelor of Music with honours in Tasmania and has been a music teacher for the past 25 years. She initially honed her skills in Tasmania before working overseas in leading Music and Arts Departments in different countries. Needless to say she has experience with a wide variety of students and believes music is not just about learning an instrument, but about the joy it gives you. Estelle knows that it’s not about how good you become, but enjoying the process, which in turn improves our lifestyle.

By Estelle Owens, a local Hawthorn resident.

Most of us have had some experience with music, be it through listening, involved in singing, playing an instrument or participating in a musical activity. Many comments I hear from people are about skills learned years ago and subsequently lost and them wishing they had continued with it. I’m here to tell you it is never to late to learn and in fact it has been scientifically proven to aid our well-being if we do so. It can improve attention, memory and problem-solving abilities, plus improve mood and quality of life.

Listening to Music I am no expert when it comes to scientifically describing what happens to our brains when we listen to music but it goes something like this; When we listen, our brains initially process music by pulling it apart, separating elements like rhythm and melody and then putting it back together to give an overall musical experience. This is all done in literally a split second and it is something that causes multiple areas of the brain to be activated at once. Just imagine what our brains are doing if we are actually playing music.

Playing music and our brain Playing music is the brain equivalent of a full body workout. We already know how important fitness is, so too is our mental stimulus and it turns out that playing a musical instrument or singing is one of the best workouts for the brain. It engages practically every area of the brain at once, especially the visual, auditory and motor areas. This then strengthens the brain which can benefit many other activities. Of course it can’t just be a one-off experience, as it needs to be an ongoing activity. I have seen first hand how my mum, who has dementia, has a much better day when she plays her piano. Her mood becomes more positive and she can think more clearly.

Things to help your brain engage

  1. You may not be 100% on board but, you help your brain by listening to music you don’t normally listen to. It may be something your grandkids are listening to. It may not be what you like, but it helps your brain workout by sorting out 'new sound.'

  2. Another activity is to go back and listen to the music of the past like The Beatles or The Rolling Stones era. This may bring back some great memories, not just of times and places, but events that happened concurrently.

  3. Lastly, think about how different types of music make you feel. Everyone has their own type of music that helps with concentration. Music can help you focus, but it can also help you relax and in those stressful moments help to slow down the heart rate and relieve tension.

All of these activities help to increase and release endorphins which make us feel good. So why not listen to some music today or better still, learn an instrument or sing in a choir.

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