Music Creates MAGIC for Those Who Play It, Listen to It -
Mental Wellness

Play It Forward’s mission creates MAGIC in its students: Mental Wellness, Agility, Grit, Independence and Community. In the weeks ahead, PIF will highlight each of these characteristics, which students can develop through practice, performance and listening. 

Mental Wellness

The pandemic significantly increased stress for lots of folks, including children forced to stay at home from school. However, a November 2020 article from nationalgeographic.com reports that music is one of the best ways to stave off depression and improve mental health. 

“(E)ngaging in pleasurable musical activities releases reinforcing, feel-good hormones like endorphins and dopamine …,” the article noted. “In studies of preterm infants in intensive care, listening to music stabilized heart and respiratory rates, improved feeding and weight gain and led to more mature sleep patterns. And people who participate in music therapy with licensed practitioners have shown improvement in mood and concentration and have experienced reduced pain, anxiety, fatigue and the stress hormone cortisol — without the use of medication.”

In children, the article noted, playing an instrument improved mental organization and growth of the brain areas responsible for thinking, memory, emotion regulation and motor coordination. Experts also encourage parents to introduce their children to music through free music programs online, via YouTube, for example, or such sites as vermontpbs.org/misterchris/, home to the “Mister Chris and Friends” music series.

Parents should also sing with their kids when they can – and experts note it’s not so important that you sing well, rather it’s important that you inspire your children by showing them you love music. If possible, parents should also encourage kids to play an instrument to foster their passion for music.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins have also touted the beneficial effects of music on one’s mental wellness, noting that listening to music can reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and pain as well as improve sleep quality, mood, mental alertness and memory.

Performing music has beneficial aspects as well, according to an article on hopkinsmedicine.org. Researchers studied jazz performers and rappers improvising music while lying down inside an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) machine to watch and see which areas of their brains light up. A musician’s brain must meet a number of challenges in order to play, researchers found.

“Music is structural, mathematical and architectural,” one researcher said. “It’s based on relationships between one note and the next. You may not be aware of it, but your brain has to do a lot of computing to make sense of it.”

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