How can music do so much good? Music seems to “selectively activate” neurochemical systems and brain structures associated with positive mood, emotion regulation, attention, and memory in ways that promote beneficial changes, says Kim Innes, a professor of epidemiology at West Virginia University’s School of Public Health.
“Silence can be better than random listening,” says Joanne Loewy, an associate professor, and director of the Louis Armstrong Center for Music & Medicine at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York. “Some of our data show that putting on any old music can induce a stress response.”
To cultivate an even deeper connection between music and your health, consider a field called music therapy, which focuses on using music to improve patient outcomes. “Music therapy starts with the idea that, as therapists, we’re collaborating with a person who’s looking to help themselves to feel more complete or optimistic or to discover parts of themselves they aren’t aware of using music,” says Alan Turry, managing director of the Nordoff-Robbins Center for Music Therapy at New York University.
“Music is a way to bypass our rational side and to get in touch with the emotional life we often keep hidden,” Turry says. “If people are having trouble, there’s usually a way that music can help.”