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Music is a powerful force. It is hardwired into us– which may be especially true for baby boomers who saw firsthand the emergence of rock and roll, and grew up during an incredible moment of music history.
The good news is, it’s never too late to start learning to play the music that has defined your life, or any music you desire. Picking up an instrument and learning to play it can have a powerful, lasting effect on your body, mind, and soul. Here are a few reasons why.
1. Playing music increases your memory, focus and intelligence.
Studies showed that memory loss is an issue for one in eight baby boomers. One way to stave that off? Creating music!
Research suggests that regularly playing an instrument changes the shape and power of the brain and may improve cognitive skills. There is a constant flow of new evidence showing that people who play music have organizationally and functionally different brains from those who don’t. There is even science suggesting that playing music can increase your IQ by seven points.
And don’t think that this only applies to children learning an instrument. Your brain is malleable and shapeable, and the good news is, this doesn’t change as you get older.
2. Playing music provides emotional benefits and relieves stress.
In the same way that hearing a song can take you to a different place and time, playing music also has the power to alter your emotional state. Creating a harmony and melody will allow you to focus on the task at hand instead of being consumed with worry; relaxing tunes can slow down heart rate; and studies have shown that playing music actually reduces stress on a molecular level.
If that wasn’t enough, music also gives us the ability to verbalize and express our feelings far better than any other medium. Writing a letter to a friend about how upset you are about something can be therapeutic, sure. But try singing or playing those same feelings over a beautiful minor chord progression. No wonder sad songs are so popular!
3. Playing music improves health overall.
Playing music has been shown to increase the amount of human growth hormone (HgH) among older generations of people, which can actually slow the aging process.
Additionally, if done properly, playing music can also improve your breathing. If you take lessons on almost any wind or brass instrument, your teacher will probably tell you to take more air and breathe properly. These kinds of exercises really help musicians, and can go a long way to improving your respiratory system. Other instruments, like the piano and guitar, will help to improve dexterity.
4. Playing music improves relationships and bonding.
Like math, love of music is universal. Not everyone knows how to say “How are you?” in English, but a lot of those same people know the words to “Hey, Jude”. There are plenty of opportunities to bond with others over this shared love, whether it is hosting jam sessions at your house or joining a social organization.
More importantly, music appreciation crosses generations. Why not create some sweet memories with the grandkids by making music together? You can pull out your keyboard and invite them to sing, or attempt to tinker out a tune of their own. Even preschoolers can jam out on a real or makeshift drum set.
You don’t have to be Yo-Yo Ma to reap the fun and health benefits of playing music. The confidence and glow you’ll gain when you conquer a new piece will be palpable. So why not reinvest in a forgotten hobby or develop a new skill today?