Mental health and wellbeing column: Music's myriad benefits

Ruth Morgan
Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Inclusion manager at Portsmouth Music Hub, Ruth Morgan, explores the physical, mental and emotional benefits of music.

Adobe Stock / Simple Happy Art

‘Music makes me feel good’ – Chloe, aged 7, Portsmouth. Like Chloe, most of us would undoubtedly agree that music can evoke various positive emotions such as joy, comfort or excitement. Regardless of age, instrument or skill level, engaging in music-making or listening brings a panoply of benefits.

Inclusive benefits

Music is an inclusive medium that can break down barriers and engage people from diverse backgrounds. As inclusion manager at Portsmouth Music Hub, I have been fortunate to see the positive impact of music on countless numbers of children and young people from across the city. Recently, in a Portsmouth school, a child with limited English found his voice through music. Teaching staff were stunned at the child's reaction to the music as he blossomed, beaming with happiness as he bopped along and played percussion. Previously unresponsive in any other lessons, until this point, music erased any anxiety and fostered true engagement. Transcending linguistic and cultural differences, he had found his voice through the universal language of music; he was empowered to connect, express and thrive.

By prioritising inclusivity and exposing children to the abundant world of music and its array of genres, musicians and composers, we not only educate them but promote health and wellbeing through music's transformative power. Integrating music into daily school routines can have significant impact on learning and wellbeing. Peaceful music can create a calm atmosphere, upbeat music can energise a class, themed music can engage learners, rap can be used to help revision, rousing music can inspire, and background music can aid concentration.

Physical benefits

In recent years there has been an increasing awareness of music's profound impact on health and wellbeing, particularly in the aftermath of the pandemic. Music has the power to reduce stress and anxiety, enhance cognitive abilities and facilitate expression, making it a transformative force in our lives.

Music has been scientifically proven to offer physical benefits that enhance overall wellbeing. Music-making releases endorphins and oxytocin, inducing happiness, pleasure and reducing stress, anxiety, blood pressure and pain. It improves sleep quality, mood, mental alertness, memory, and fosters trust and bonding with others. Some doctors are now even using social prescriptions involving music, to help people with health and social needs.

Mental benefits

Additionally, music can enhance physical performance and endurance such as during exercise. The rhythmic qualities and motivational aspects of music can boost energy levels, increase focus and improve coordination. Studies have demonstrated that individuals who exercise to music often experience improved performance and prolonged exercise duration.

The effects of music on the mind are truly remarkable. Listening to music can enhance cognitive functions such as memory, attention and problem-solving skills. Research shows that background music can improve concentration and focus, making it beneficial for pupils and professionals.

Emotional benefits

Music has an innate ability to evoke emotions and provide an outlet for emotional expression. It can serve as a powerful mood regulator, helping to reduce stress, anxiety and depression. I have seen first-hand how music can help individuals process emotions, connect with feelings, and find comfort during challenging times. Whether through playing an instrument, singing or simply listening to music, we can all find solace and release in the melodies and lyrics.

Music also fosters social connections and a sense of belonging. Engaging in musical activities such as playing in a band or singing in a choir can create a sense of community and support. These shared experiences can promote bonding, improve social skills, reduce feelings of isolation and enhance overall wellbeing.

In summary, the benefits of music for our health and wellbeing are extensive and profound. Music not only has physical effects and benefits, reducing stress and anxiety, but it improves cognitive function and emotional wellbeing. Incorporating music into our daily routines, whether through active engagement or passive listening, can transform our lives.