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Doctor’s Orders: Listen to Music

Doctor’s Orders: Listen to Music

We so often think about health in terms of things that are immediately tangible, like a healthy meal or a great workout. In recent posts, we have talked about some of the ways your mental health affects your physical health. We discussed everything from emotional eating to the value of friendships.

Today, we are continuing that theme by revisiting a Habit of Health that I wrote about in Dr. A’s Habits of Health: listen to music. In 2008, we already knew that music can actually be a therapeutic way to lower stress, reduce inflammation, and calm the immune system. In fact, when you sing, play an instrument, or even just listen to music, you lower your level of immune-activating cytokines and increase your level of relaxing endorphins—the body’s natural morphine.

Music can also help us to be more active throughout the day. Even if we are dancing to an up-beat song in our chairs during work, music can help us to burn more energy while producing stress-reducing benefits.

To help illustrate just how much music can impact your health, a recent study involving 7,000 participants found that listening to music after surgery actually reduced pain and anxiety. While the researchers were rightfully hesitant to link these already substantial benefits to improved recovery times, we know that pain and anxiety are stressful experiences, and we know that consistently high stress levels strain our bodies in a number of ways. When we reduce our stress levels, our bodies operate more efficiently.

These are all reasons to make music a regular part of your life. At home, at work, on trips—listening to music that you enjoy is an easy way to improve your health. This small Habit of Health won’t be the habit that makes you lose 50 pounds, but the cumulative effective of lowering your stress (even if just a little bit) over years and years can be quite profound. In the Habits of Health system, this is one of a number of small changes that add up to a healthier lifestyle.

To get the most out of this Habit of Health, try these tips:

  • Listen to uplifting music that elicits positive emotions. You don’t need more reasons in your life to feel angry or sad.
  • Load your smartphone with a variety of music so that you are never far from your favorite music.
  • If you are at work, use headphones to be courteous of your coworkers’ health bubbles.
  • Whether you are using headphones or speakers, listen to your music at a reasonable volume to protect your hearing. In-ear buds in particular might make you more prone to hearing damage.
  • Learn to make music. You don’t have to be a concert pianist to enjoy the mental boost of singing or playing an instrument.
  • Dance! Tap your foot or get up and move to add some extra activity to your day.

I hope by now that you have turned on some music and are already reaping the rewards of this Habit of Health!

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