Happiness Series Part 2 – Pump Up the Volume

It starts as a tap of our feet or the beat of a drum. Maybe there is singing, maybe it is just a stirring instrumental. Culturally it’s a touchpoint, generationally it can be an act of rebellion or freedom. When we get older it stirs powerful feelings of nostalgia, of remembering where you were, what you were doing, how you first danced to it. There are reports that it can make us smarter with theories like the “Mozart Effect” which may explain, in part, why in 2016 Mozart sold more CD’s than anyone else – 225 years after his death. At its core, it is a combination of sounds and vibration, but psychologically and emotionally, music is so much more.

Music is powerful; scientists have found that music stimulates more parts of the brain than any other human function. And conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim succinctly states why, “Sound literally penetrates the human body.”

Children understand the benefits of music at a young age as parents use it to calm, entertain, and sooth their infants. But it does much more than just create a bond between parent and child, it quite literally increases brain capacity for learning. A 2016 study at the University of Southern California’s Brain and Creativity Institute found that musical experiences in childhood can actually accelerate brain development, particularly in the areas of language acquisition and reading skills. And for any parent who has sung Itsy Bitsy Spider 20 times in a row will tell you, while the repetition can be hard on adults, this is exactly what helps develop language in the littlest among us.

As we grow, music continues to help us develop and even keeps us healthy. Music helps reduce the hormone cortisol, which is particularly helpful during stressful times like, say, a pandemic. But there’s more, “We’ve found compelling evidence that musical interventions can play a health-care role in settings ranging from operating rooms to family clinics,” says Levitin, author of the book “This is Your Brain on Music.” Music is medicine.

Music, whether you like Mozart of Metallica, Wiggles or Barry White, fills our soul with everything good. It brings back memories, it gets you up and moving, develops your brain and it improves your health and wellbeing. But most importantly for the time we are living in, it fills the space between the scary and the familiar. Now is the time to dust off the piano and watch some YouTube lessons, play a song from your porch or balcony, blast your favorite Spotify list and just dance – it’s medicine for your soul.