The idea of someone with tear-soaked eyes listening to sad songs in attempt to cope with a breakup seems like a tired cliche, but there’s definitely something universally relatable to it. The act of listening to music is often intensely personal and emotional, which makes it one of life’s best ways to understand and cope with being human. Because music reflects life, it benefits us in many different ways. Here’s just a few of them:
Whether it’s a devastating chord progression or a lyrical narrative we see ourselves in, music is able to relate to people like few other things in life can. Truly great music has the ability to invite listeners into a story that feels familiar to them. “I feel like that song was speaking directly to me,” is something people say often. When a listener feels “known” by a piece of music, a powerful bond is formed that can last a lifetime.
Music is obviously a great tool to help us cope with and understand the dramas of life, but what’s lesser known is its ability to heal. And by “heal,” I mean physically and not just emotionally. According to an article published by Harvard Medical School, music has the power to restore speech, reduce side effects of cancer treatment, boost pain relief, and improve quality of life for people with dementia. Music’s also been proven to measurably benefit patients undergoing uncomfortable procedures as well as surgeons looking for ways to minimize stress while working.
Going to a show or listening to your favorite music might not seem like acts of healing, but it absolutely can be for some people. Some readers will remember a 2012 Youtube video of an elderly alzheimer’s patient coming alive while listening to familiar music from his youth. Some people might see music as being a frivolous thing, but there’s plenty of evidence to prove them wrong.
Music helps us feel
Whether it’s a song to help pump up a boxer before a big match or an old record that you can always rely on to help make you feel better when you’re feeling down, music has an uncanny ability to inspire emotion in people. There’s plenty of obvious emotional examples of this, but just like in music’s ability to heal there’s a deeper scientific explanation at work. Dopamine, that feel-good good chemical that our brains get flooded with when we experience pleasure like eating tasty food, is also activated by listening to music.
Music helps us escape
Music is a great way for a listener to slip into another world or to assume a new identity. Like a compelling movie or novel, we often look towards music as a means to escape the malaise of daily life. From subway riders to uninspired office workers, it’s safe to say that music is helping millions of people cope with the unfun parts of being alive, which is one of the reasons it’s so massively important.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.