How much does music affect us and our environment? We know that certain pieces of music can make us feel sad, cheerful and on occasion euphoric, but does music have any deeper therapeutic value? Here are five research conclusions that not only confirm what you may have already thought, but also throw up some surprising (and at times amusing) findings.
1. Music relieves stress. The entire human energetic system is extremely influenced by sounds, and neuroscientists have proved that music slows down and equalises brain waves. The slower the brain waves, the more relaxed and peaceful we feel.
2. Music affects the body. The physical body responds to certain tones and frequencies. Music can relax your muscles and help you reduce your rate of breathing. Music with longer, slower sounds deepens and slows the breath, which calms the mind. However, the reverse is also true. A study done with university students found that, after exposure to loud rock music, the heart-rate of students increased, their breathing got faster, and their blood pressure rose by as much as 10 per cent.
3. Music also affects plants. Dorothy Retallack performed some interesting experiments using three separate chambers containing the same species of plants. She piped in different types of music to two of the chambers, while leaving the other one silent, and recorded the daily growth of each plant. She played loud heavy rock music to one group of plants and, soothing music to another. The ‘rock’ group of plants quite quickly withered, whereas the other plants grew tall and healthy. What’s even more peculiar is that the group of plants listening to the soothing music bent towards the speaker. She continued trying out different styles of music and each style had marked effects on the plants apart from one genre which had no effect whatsoever. That genre was country and western music.
4. Singing is a masseuse. The act of singing has been proved to give the body an internal massage regardless of how tuneful you are. A good yell or gentle croon releases endorphins, improves lung capacity and even boosts the immune system. Singing can help to put us in touch with ourselves and has been claimed to harmonise the emotional and spiritual aspects of life.
5. Music can act as an anaesthetic. Don Campbell (who wrote ‘The Mozart Effect’) asserted that the joy and emotional richness in music created healing chemicals that enable the body to create its own anaesthetic and enhance the immune system. One study also found that half of the expectant mothers who listened to music during childbirth did not require anesthesia because the music stimulated endorphin levels and provided a distraction from pain and anxiety.
So, the next time you decide to sing or play some music, be aware that it may be having a greater effect on your well-being (and the health of your plants) than you previously imagined.