For 89% of adults, playing a musical instrument positively impacts mental health, particularly by increasing feelings of relaxation and happiness according to a new scientific study commissioned by Spotify. A third of the surveyed individuals said that playing an instrument gives them “a sense of purpose in life.” Although playing an instrument has been known to have many benefits, the impact it has on mental health is becoming more apparent.
“As a musician, when in concerts or performing, there’s something really great about knowing that others are there to listen to you play, as well as enjoy it,” freshman bass guitar player Kyle Cobb said. “Music is a great social outlet and hobby that gives you self fulfillment and a reason to be proud of yourself.”
A study published by the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry shows that playing an instrument can positively affect brain development. In the study, they found that music playing altered the motor areas of the brain because the activity requires control and coordination of movement. They also noted changes in behavior-regulating areas of the brain related to things such as memory, attentional control, organization, and planning. According to the researchers, a child’s musical background also appears to correlate with cortical thickness in brain areas that play a critical role in inhibitory control, as well as aspects of emotion processing.
“Playing my flute helps me through my anxiety,” freshman Bhavika Khona said, ”I can play my feelings out through music and calm myself down.”
Playing an instrument also gives chances to meet similar people. According to Mental Health Matters, for people who have social anxiety and have trouble making friends with their same interests, playing an instrument can be a great ice-breaker. Instead of chatting for hours, everyone will be focused on playing, so it’s a way to ease into making new friends.
“Playing an instrument has benefited my mental health because it allows for me to meet other people who share the same interests, as well as give me motivation to be successful,” Cobb said.
Playing an instrument has many emotional benefits, such as being therapeutic when it comes to struggling with stress, insomnia and depression according to WebMD. It can act as an outlet for difficult emotions and can be a distraction from a stressful day. Playing a musical instrument can switch off the stress response. When our senses detect a possible threat in the environment, the body undergoes a chain reaction in which genes within each cell switch on, directing the cells to produce chemicals associated with the stress response. Playing music sets off an opposite chain reaction that switches these genes off again.
“I think that playing an instrument benefits mental health because it helps me relieve my stress and calm down,” Khona said. “It makes me feel calm and collected, and can change my mood if I’m having a really bad day, it’s basically a really nice stress reliever.”
Playing an instrument is also a form of self-expression and has the ability to boost confidence. According to Classic FM, being able to play an instrument and express oneself in a creative way can improve one’s self-worth and confidence because it gives people a sense of uniqueness and self-purpose.
“I recommend people to start playing an instrument for mental health because it can really help ease your stress throughout the day,” Khona said. “You can empty all your thoughts and problems through your music.”