Music can heal, but not the instruments

Apparently, listening to and playing music does wonders for our memories and our mental health.  So says “lifehacker,” whose blog I landed on, but have no recollection how.  Obviously I need to listen to music more often if I’m to benefit from its positive effects on memory.

“Lifehacker” offers up many ways in which music might be good for us, but acknowledges that most of them are unproven.  However, the connection between music and positive moods is one for which there is evidence.  From one study cited on WebMD: “Not only did our sample of students report more positive emotions after listening to music, but their already positive emotions were intensified by listening to music.” (Valerie Stratton and Annette Zalanowski, Penn St. U.)

Music triggers the release of dopamine in various parts of the brain and dopamine is connected to feelings of pleasure.  Jonah Lehrer, Wired magazine, writing on “the neuroscience of music says, “Sound stirs us at our biological roots.”

I know from experience, and science supports this, that when we exercise to fast-paced music we move faster.  Also, “soothing music reduces stress.

I found this quote, from, particularly interesting. “Regularly playing a musical instrument changes the anatomy and function of the brain and may be used in therapy to improve cognitive skills.

All of  this brings me to my latest avocation: playing the ukulele.  After only a week into it, I can report on the effects of my own scientific experiments with a string instrument after many years of playing a piano.  The first and most obvious result is deep indentations in the fingertips of my left hand immediately after practicing, which disappear in a few minutes, only to be replaced by ongoing tenderness. On second glance, is that a blister I see? Another outcome is a sudden liking for normally disagreeable songs, such as, “You are my Sunshine” and “Tiny Bubbles,” since I can now strum the chords for them…sort of.  And the last is the discovery that even if I can play the right chords, I cannot sing them.  The good news, however, is that I had a great piano lesson yesterday and played my pieces well.

About stillalife

I retired June 30, 2010 after working for 40 years in the field of education and most recently doing school public relations/community outreach in a mid-size urban school district. I wrote for superintendents and school board members. Now I'm writing for me and I hope for you. In this blog, I offer my own views coupled with the latest research on how to preserve our physical and mental health as we age, delve into issues most of us over 50 can relate to like noticing wrinkles and forgetting where we left our keys, discuss the pros and cons of different ways to engage our minds and bodies after we leave the workplace, and throw in an occasional book review, all peppered with a touch of humor, irony, and just plain silliness. Also, I'm on the third draft of my second novel since retirement.
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