Reasons Why Learning an Instrument is Good for Your Mental Health
Think back to your childhood for a moment. Do you remember how comforting it was to listen to your favorite song on repeat, over and over again? As if the lyrics were speaking directly to you? Though it’s often said that music is the universal language, there are plenty of people who would disagree. After all, how can something so subjective be considered a language? And yet, music does have a unique way of communicating with people on a deep level. It can convey emotions and feelings that words simply cannot express. This is why learning to play an instrument can be so beneficial for your mental health.
1 – Accelerates Learning
Anyone who has ever tried to learn a new language knows that it takes a lot of time and effort before you can converse with native speakers without feeling intimidated. However, learning an instrument is easier than learning a foreign language. It’s as easy as learning some sheet music for the piano and playing along. In fact, according to researcher Dr. Laurel Trainor from McMaster University, “the earlier you start, the better” when it comes to learning an instrument. Children who are exposed to music at a young age have been found to be more likely to keep playing their instruments later in life. Learning an instrument is also easier because you are constantly making progress, thanks to fixed intervals between notes on most types of instruments. For example, there are only 12 notes on a piano, so once you’ve learned the first octave of the keyboard, you have already mastered half of all possible notes. You can play songs at an earlier stage than language learners who are just starting out with their new vocabulary words.
2 – Strengthens Brain Connections
So why exactly is learning an instrument easier for babies and young children? The answer lies in one of the most important aspects of brain development: neural plasticity. If you’ve ever seen a baby reaching out to grab something, or an older toddler learning how to walk, then you have observed the phenomenon known as “neural plasticity” at work. Neural plasticity refers to the brain’s ability to learn, develop and adjust in response to a person’s experiences. Babies are born with an abundance of neural connections, which can be thought of as potential waiting to be discovered. Unfortunately, it is extremely challenging for adults to make new neural connections because this natural process doesn’t happen as often. However, playing an instrument is a great way to strengthen and develop the connections in your brain, allowing you to grow into a more well-rounded individual with increased abilities.
3 – Improved Cognitive Ability
The mental benefits of learning an instrument aren’t just limited to those who play music for leisure or pleasure; there are plenty of professional musicians whose lives have been profoundly altered by their instrument. For example, Stevie Wonder enjoyed singing and playing the piano from an early age. He said that music helped him learn how to speak more clearly, which in turn allowed him to express his emotions on a deeper level. Today, Stevie Wonder is one of the most distinguished musicians in the world. His love of music has given him an abundance of mental benefits, which he continues to enjoy even as he grows older. As you can see, there are plenty of reasons why learning an instrument is good for your mental health. It helps you develop your cognitive abilities, boosts neural plasticity and also provides a sense of stability and structure in your life, which is important for anyone dealing with negative emotions. Even if you are not a professional musician one day, the mental benefits of learning an instrument are still worth exploring.
4 – Aids in Treating Mental Illness
Perhaps the most important reason why learning an instrument is good for your mental health is that it can help you overcome or manage some forms of mental illness, leading to a happier and more fulfilling life. A 2003 study found that playing a musical instrument provided benefits for patients with schizophrenia, while another study concluded that music therapy could improve symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Most recently (and perhaps most importantly), a 2015 study demonstrated that music therapy helped reduce the symptoms of depression in older adults, which is especially encouraging given that this age group experiences one of the highest rates of mental illness and suicide in Canada.
5 – It Relaxes The Body
When you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed or unhappy, the best thing to do is take a step back and relax. Whether it’s your daily trip to work or an intense workout at the gym, stress can have a major impact on your mental health. Playing music can help reduce stress in several ways, including by providing a calming environment. According to the American Music Therapy Association, music has been used for hundreds of years to promote relaxation. In fact, playing soothing melodies in a relaxed environment is often recommended by doctors and therapists as a way to treat insomnia and other sleep disorders, which can in turn help reduce stress levels in the long term.
6 – Provides a Sense of Control and Structure
Many people with mental health issues lack a sense of control and structure in their lives, which can result in problems that undermine physical and emotional well-being. However, learning an instrument can help instill this kind of stability by providing a series of achievable milestones. Whether you are mastering your first song or simply trying to practice every day, there are plenty of challenges you can take on that can eventually lead to real-life improvements in concentration, focus, and self-esteem.
Learning an instrument can be a great way to improve your mental health, in addition to the other benefits it provides. The article explores how playing music is good for cognitive ability, neural plasticity and mood stability. It also discusses that music therapy has been used as a form of treatment for depression among older adults. Learning an instrument may help with OCD or schizophrenia symptoms too. If you are looking for more information on these topics, don’t hesitate to contact us here at our office today. We would be happy to provide you with all the resources necessary so that you can reap the many benefits of learning an instrument offers.