The past eight months of dealing with the worst global pandemic of our time has a lot of Americans stressed out. Responding to concerns over the increasing incidence of mental health problems and substance abuse due to COVID-19, the CDC conducted a survey in June of 2020. The study revealed that a whopping 40% of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health issues or substance abuse.
Mental and emotional benefits of music
These numbers are 3-4 times higher than a similar study conducted at the same time last year, so if you’re suffering from anxiety or depression, you’re not alone. The stress is getting to all of us. While we can’t solve the pandemic overnight, we can take positive steps toward minimizing the repercussions on our own health. Listening to music has been proven to lower cortisol — the fight-or-flight hormone that our body releases when we’re faced with a stressful event — and promote relaxation.
Because of the strong connection between music and emotion, music has long been used as a form of therapy to regulate mood. The rhythmic and repetitive aspects of it engage the neocortex of the brain, which creates a sense of calm and lowers impulsivity. One caveat: to achieve a particular state of mind, choose music that matches the mood you want to achieve, not the one you’re currently experiencing. Put simply, don’t listen to heavy metal if your goal is to relax or tragic ballads if you need a lift.
Music and the immune system
Self-care has never been as important as it is right now, because stress also takes a toll on your physical health and ability to fight off the Coronavirus. Neuroscientists at McGill University in Montreal performed a meta-analysis on over 400 studies touting the benefits of music to mental and physical health. They found that listening to and playing music boosts the body’s production of immunoglobulin A and natural killer cells — the cells that go after invading viruses and strengthen the immune system.
If you still need convincing, pull up a video of a live music performance. Michael Caroff, frontman of the Santana tribute band, Savor, has seen the way music changes a crowd. Whether the band is performing during the daytime at a family-friendly event or in the evening at a bar, the audience is always transformed by the uplifting Latin-influenced music. People’s faces reflect their pleasure and many are moved to get up and dance, and for those few hours, they don’t have a care in the world.