The Beautiful Connection Between Music, Health, Happiness And Efficiency

by John Haltiwanger

Music makes everything better. It brings people together, and reminds them what a gift it is to be alive and breathing.

Good music is like good food, it's just plain good. It doesn't matter where it originated, it's universally palatable. It transcends both space and time. It unifies people, breaching seemingly impenetrable cultural and generational divides.

Music inspires laughter, tears, song and dance. It's simultaneously soothing and emotive. It works its way from the top of your head down to the tips of your toes, breathing new energy into every fiber of your body.

Music tells stories, captures complex emotions and breeds diversity. It expresses the inexpressible, making hard times easier, and good times even better.

As the late musician Levon Helm once stated:

If you pour some music on whatever's wrong, it'll sure help out.

Research supports this notion, as there is a strong link between music, health, happiness and productivity.

Music is good for your body and mind.

If you're feeling down, why not try some musical medicine?

Bob Marley is frequently quoted for singing:

One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.

Mr. Marley makes a very valid point.

A study from the University of Missouri suggests listening to music when you're angry or sad provides an instant boost to your mood.

There's also evidence music can help reduce stress and anxiety, particularly if it's slow in tempo and not too loud (Rage Against the Machine probably won't help you relax).

A study involving surgery patients, for example, found that when they listened to music before an operation, it reduced stress levels even more than anti-anxiety medication.

If you're blessed with musical ability, and can sing or play an instrument, these activities are also proven to help reduce stress.

Indeed, music has numerous physical and mental health benefits. It's been found to aid everything from memory to exercise.

It's so powerful, some researchers believe it can actually help prevent disease. Stress negatively impacts our immune systems by increasing cortisol levels. As we've noted, music helps relieve stress. Thus, by helping our minds, there's evidence music also improves our physical health.

Research has also shown music helps release dopamine, the neurotransmitter often referred to as the "happy chemical" associated with our brain's reward system.

It's why we get that ostensibly inexplicable "chill" during that moment when a song really speaks to us (think the guitar solo in "Stairway to Heaven" or Eminem's verse in "Forgot About Dre"). As it turns out, this sensation can be explained by the way music interacts with our brain chemistry.

Robert J. Zatorre and Valorie N. Salimpoor, both neuroscientists, have conducted extensive research on music's impact on the brain. As they explain it:

When pleasurable music is heard, dopamine is released in the striatum — an ancient part of the brain found in other vertebrates as well — which is known to respond to naturally rewarding stimuli like food and sex and which is artificially targeted by drugs like cocaine and amphetamine.

Simply put, our brains are programmed to be happier when we listen to music. It speaks to us and affects us in ways we can only begin to fathom.

Music is an indispensable gift, and we should never take it, or the happiness it produces, for granted.

Happy people are productive people.

In the same way that music is beneficial to our health and overall outlook on life, happiness helps improve productivity.

Happiness isn't something that is naturally bestowed upon people. It takes effort, and a willingness to focus on positive thinking, but your hard work will pay off.

As Teresa Amabile, a professor at Harvard Business School, and Steven Kramer, an independent researcher, contend in the New York Times:

Employees are far more likely to have new ideas on days when they feel happier. Conventional wisdom suggests that pressure enhances performance; our real-time data, however, shows that workers perform better when they are happily engaged in what they do.

Along with greater rates of productivity, teamwork and creativity, research also suggests happy employees lead to increased profits.

Interestingly enough, there is also a link between listening to music and efficiency. A study found that nine out of 10 workers performed better while listening to some tunes.

There was also a correlation between efficiency and the type of music they listened to. For example, classical music has shown to aid in work that involves numbers. So if you've got math homework, Mozart might be your best friend.

This all goes to show that music is the secret ingredient to both happiness and productivity.

In other words, music is arguably the root of all that's positive in this world, or as Jack Kerouac once put it:

The only truth is music.

If you're not currently listening to music, you're doing yourself a huge disservice. Science says so.

Citations: 5 Ways Music Improves Our Health (Huffington Post), Why Music Makes Our Brain Sing (New York Times), Listening to happy music really CAN make you happier find researchers (Daily Mail), Relaxing music as premedication before surgery a randomised controlled trial (PubMed), Major health benefits of music uncovered (McGill University), Trying to be happier really can work Two experimental studies (Positive Psychology ), Do Happier People Work Harder (New York Times), Happy Employees Hefty Profits (Forbes)