The Power of Music
A recent study published in Nature showed that people who had no musical background who took piano lessons for one hour per week for 11 weeks were better able to recognize changes in sights and sounds around them.
Perhaps more importantly, these folks also saw a decrease in depression, anxiety and stress levels. Since the mental health concerns mentioned in this study are frequent complaints that I discuss with patients in my family medicine office, I paid special attention to this study.
Although piano was the only instrument mentioned in the study above, other studies (Like this one) have shown physical benefits from listening to certain calming genres of music including lower heart rate, improved blood flow, and lower blood pressure. Yet other studies (Like this one) have shown a mental health benefit to K-8 students when they participated in music therapy- type classes in school. These studies clarify for me why I enjoyed playing an instrument during my high school and college years– it was a stress reliever for me. Attendance was mandatory during my concert band days, and so regardless of what struggles I was facing in my classes, I had 1-2 hours per week when I knew I could leave it behind and mentally exercise a different part of my brain. I strongly believe this experience helped me to be a better student.
I hope the studies above can be used to help school districts choose to keep music classes and bands in grades K-12. With the rise of mental health concerns among adolescents, maintaining (or introducing!) music classes could be one way to combat that.
The study from Nature may also give you some ideas on how to combat your own depression, anxiety or stress symptoms. I admit that I haven’t often thought to recommend music lessons to my patients, but I think that is about to change! As a family doctor, I love finding research-based, non-medication ways to help patients improve their mental health. There are plenty of piano teachers in the Columbia, SC area who would love to sign you up for lessons!