We all know the impact music can have on our moods: You may find yourself suddenly dancing in the kitchen or singing in the car when one of your favorite songs plays on the radio. Or maybe you feel a sense of peace when you hear a particular melody.
Research has shown that music does more than help us feel a certain way – it impacts our physical, mental and emotional health. It can even help improve medical outcomes and a patient's quality of life.
The Music Therapy Department at Children's Health℠ sees the impact of music on children and families firsthand.
"Music is a great coping tool for children," says Karen Norris, music therapist at Children's Health. "It can help during a time of transition, reduce stress and create a bonding experience."
"Creating a musical home is very easy – and intuitive," adds Lisa Jones, music therapist at Children's Health. "It's automatic for parents to sing a lullaby to a baby or sing a silly song with a toddler. That introduction to music opens the door to a lifelong love of music."
Health benefits of music
Children and parents don't need to be musically gifted to take advantage of all the health benefits of music. Dancing to a favorite song is a fun way to lighten moods and get heart rates up. Teaching tunes to toddlers are an effective way to help them remember simple lessons – just think of the alphabet song. Learning how to play a musical instrument can help teach self-discipline and improve confidence.
Some benefits of music include:
1. Music can reduce anxiety and stress
Relaxing music (music with a slow tempo or low pitch) can help individuals feel calm. Research has shown that it can help reduce stress and anxiety around medical and dental procedures.
Music is also a powerful tool for children with anxiety. It can help regulate emotions and provide a much-needed break from overstimulation.
If you or your child struggle with stress or anxiety, try to find the music that helps calm the mind and relax the body. It may take a few tries to find the music that works. Take the opportunity to connect with your child and talk about emotions. Discuss how the song makes you each feel and what you do and don't like about the song.
2. Music can help ease pain and discomfort
Studies have found that music can help individuals feel less discomfort and pain before, during and after surgery. Try it the next time your child gets a minor injury. Play some relaxing music and snuggle together for a little TLC and bonding.
3. Music can promote positive moods and emotional states
Listening to music can release endorphins, the brain's "feel-good" chemicals. If your child is feeling cranky or dragging his feet to complete a chore, try turning on some music to get energy levels up.
4. Music can encourage bonding and connections
Music can help children and adults express emotions and create a shared experienced. Share a favorite song with your child and ask your child to do the same. Regularly sharing music can provide insight into how your child – especially teens – are feeling.
5. Music can improve memory
Research has shown that rhythm and melodies help our brains form patterns to improve memory. Music can improve memory, recall and attention.
6. Music can improve cognition
One study found that structured music lessons can improve language-based reasoning, short-term memory, planning and inhibition. It can also improve children's visual and spatial memory, underscoring the benefits of playing a musical instrument.
However you enjoy music, find a few simple ways to make music a part of your family's everyday life to enjoy all the benefits it has to offer.
Children's Health was one of the first hospitals in the country to offer music therapy in the 1990s, reflecting a belief in a holistic approach to care. Today, Children's Health offers the largest music therapy program in the region. Drawing on the universal language of music, our board-certified music therapists use a variety of musical experiences to create a therapeutic relationship with children and family members.