Health Benefits of Listening to Music | Healthy Living

In 2009, archaeologists excavating a cave in southern Germany uncovered a flute carved from a vulture’s wing bone. The delicate artifact is the oldest known musical instrument on earth — indicating that people have been making music for over 40,000 years.

Although we can’t be sure exactly when human beings began listening to music, scientists do know something about why we do. Listening to music benefits us individually and collectively. Here’s what research tells us about the power of music to improve our physical, mental, and emotional health.

Music connects us

ResearchersTrusted Source think one of the most important functions of music is to create a feeling of cohesion or social connectedness.

Evolutionary scientists say human beings may have developed a dependence on music as a communication tool because our ancestors descended from arboreal species — tree-dwellers who called to one another across the canopy.

Music remains a powerful way of uniting people:

  • national anthems connect crowds at sporting events
  • protest songs stir a sense of shared purpose during marches
  • hymns build group identity in houses of worship
  • love songs help prospective partners bond during courtship
  • lullabies enable parents and infants to develop secure attachments

How, then, does music benefit us as individuals?

Music’s effects on the mind

It can lead to better learning

Doctors at Johns Hopkins recommend that you listen to music to stimulate your brain. Scientists know that listening to music engages your brain — they can see the active areas light up in MRI scans.

Researchers now know that just the promise of listening to music can make you want to learn more. In one 2019 study, people were more motivated to learn when they expected to listen to a song as their reward.

Listening has limits

A note of caution: You may want to withhold the earbuds for some students. ResearchersTrusted Source who tested students with lower working memory capacity found that listening to music — especially songs with lyrics — sometimes had a negative effect on learning.

It can improve memory

Music also has a positive effect on your ability to memorize.

In one studyTrusted Source, researchers gave people tasks that required them to read and then recall short lists of words. Those who were listening to classical music outperformed those who worked in silence or with white noise.

The same study tracked how fast people could perform simple processing tasks — matching numbers to geometrical shapes — and a similar benefit showed up. Mozart helped people complete the task faster and more accurately.

Mayo Clinic points out that while music doesn’t reverse the memory loss experienced by people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, music has been found to slow cognitive declineTrusted Source, helping people with mild or moderate dementia remember episodes from their lives.

Music memory is one of the brain functions most resistant to dementia. That’s why some caregivers have had success using music to calm dementia patients and build trusting connections with them.

It can help treat mental illness

Music literally changes the brain. Neurological researchers have found that listening to music triggers the release of several neurochemicals that play a role in brain function and mental health:

  • dopamine, a chemical associated with pleasure and “reward” centers
  • stress hormones like cortisol
  • serotonin and other hormones related to immunity
  • oxytocin, a chemical that fosters the ability to connect to others

Although more research needs to be done to understand precisely how music can be used therapeutically to treat mental illness, some studiesTrusted Source suggest that music therapy can improve the quality of life and social connectedness for people with schizophrenia.

Music’s effects on mood

A number of researchersTrusted Source have interviewed groups about why they listen to music. Study participants vary widely in terms of age, gender, and background, but they report strikingly similar reasons.

One of the most common uses of music? It helps people regulate their emotionsTrusted Source, researchers found. It has the power to change moods and help people process their feelings.

It can help lower anxiety

There’s lots of evidence that listening to music can help calm you in situations where you might feel anxious.

StudiesTrusted Source have shown that people in rehab after a stroke are more relaxed once they’ve listened to music for an hour.

Similar studiesTrusted Source indicate that music blended with nature sounds help people feel less anxious. Even people facing critical illnessTrusted Source feel less anxiety after music therapy.

There’s conflicting evidence about whether listening to music has an effect on your body’s physiological stress response, however. One studyTrusted Source indicated that the body releases less cortisol, a stress hormone, when people listen to music. This same study referenced previous research stating that music had little measurable effect on cortisol levels.

One recent studyTrusted Source that measured several indicators of stress (not just cortisol) concluded that while listening to music before a stressful event doesn’t reduce anxiety, listening to relaxing music after a stressful event can help your nervous system recover faster.

It helps the symptoms of depression

A 2017 research reviewTrusted Source concluded that listening to music, particularly classical combined with jazz, had a positive effect on depression symptoms, especially when there were several listening sessions conducted by board certified music therapists.

Not into jazz or the classics? You may want to try a group percussion session instead. The same research review found that drum circles also had above-average benefits for people dealing with depression.

Musical genre matters for depression

One important note: StudiesTrusted Source have found that nostalgic sad tunes can actually increase symptoms of depression, especially if you tend to ruminate or withdraw socially. Not surprising, perhaps, but important to know if you want to use music to counteract the blues.

Music’s effects on the body

It can help your heart health

Music can make you want to move — and the benefits of dancing are well documented. Scientists also know that listening to music can alterTrusted Source your breath rate, your heart rate, and your blood pressure, depending on the music’s intensity and tempo.

It decreases fatigue

Anyone who has ever rolled down car windows and turned up the radio knows that music can be energizing. There’s solid science behind that lived experience.

In 2015, researchersTrusted Source at Shanghai University found that relaxing music helped reduce fatigue and maintain muscle endurance when people were engaged in a repetitive task.

Music therapy sessions also lessened fatigue in people receiving cancer treatments and raised the fatigue threshold for people engaged in demanding neuromuscular training, which leads us to the next big benefit.

It boosts exercise performance

Exercise enthusiasts have long known that music enhances their physical performance.

A 2020 research review confirms that working out with music improves your mood, helps your body exercise more efficiently, and cuts down on your awareness of exertion. Working out with music also leads to longer workoutsTrusted Source.

In clinical settings, athletes who listened to high-intensity, fast music during warmups were motivatedTrusted Source to perform better competitively.

You don’t have to be a world-class competitor to benefit: ResearchTrusted Source shows that syncing your workout to music can allow you to reach peak performance using less oxygen than if you did the same workout without the beat. Music acts as a metronome in your body, researchers said.

It can help manage pain

Specially trained music therapists use music to help alleviate pain in inpatient and outpatient settings. A 2016 meta-analysisTrusted Source of over 90 studies reported that music helps people manage both acute and chronic pain better than medication alone.

About music therapy

The American Music Therapy Association describes music therapy as the use of music in hospitals, outpatient clinics, rehab clinics, nursing homes, schools, correctional facilities, and substance use programs to help meet the medical, physical, emotional, and cognitive needs of patients. To find a board- certified music therapist in your area, check this registry.

The takeaway

Music exerts a powerful influence on human beings. It can boost memory, build task endurance, lighten your mood, reduce anxiety and depression, stave off fatigue, improve your response to pain, and help you work out more effectively.

Working with a music therapist is one effective way to take advantage of the many benefits music can have on your body, mind, and overall health.


If you really want to get rid of a stuffy nose fast, you need to know what’s causing it. Here, find out what’s causing you to be so stuffed up, and how to get rid of the congestion.
Portrait of sick African American woman sneezes in white tissue, suffers from rhinitis and running nose, has allergy on something, looks unhealthy, feels unwell. Symptoms of cold or allergy.

Some 50 million people in the US suffer from allergies, says the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology (ACAAI). Common allergens include pollen, pets, dust, mold, and grass. In addition to sneezing and itchy, watery eyes, the classic symptom of allergies is a stopped-up nose. How to get rid of a blocked nose? The simplest strategy is avoidance. If you know you have an allergy, stay away from your triggers or protect yourself by wearing a mask and taking showers after being outdoors, especially on dry, windy days.

Over-the-counter antihistamines, which work by blocking an immune system chemical called histamine that’s involved in allergic reactions, can help unstuff your nose, per the US National Library of Medicine (NLM). So can saline nasal rinses, says NLM. Make sure you use purified (aka distilled), filtered, or boiled water, or consider picking up an OTC saline spray or wash.

If nothing clears your stuffed-up, allergic nose, consider allergy shots. “It comes as close [as we have] to a cure for allergies,” Christopher Chang, MD, an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist in Warrenton, Virginia, tells Health.

Colds and the flu

Post-Covid Syndrome , Sick woman at home. Young african woman laying on sofa she is sick

A dramatically stuffed nose is a hallmark symptom of both colds and the flu, which are caused by viruses. There’s no cure for either and they usually go away on their own. However, if you don’t take care, you could get a secondary infection from bacteria that grow in your “stagnant mucus,” Lisa Liberatore, MD, an ENT in New York City, tells Health, which could be even more serious.

An array of over-the-counter cold and flu medicines containing decongestants (which shrink the inflamed blood vessels blocking your nose) and/or antihistamines can help clear congestion, says the American Academy of Family Physicians. Nasal rinses can, too, by washing viruses and bacteria away, explains Denver-based National Jewish Health.

But other self-care is also key. “I emphasize the importance of hydration, staying away from alcohol, and getting plenty of sleep because lack of sleep [hampers] the immune system,” says Dr. Liberatore. “If there’s any time you want to prioritize sleep, it would be when you’re sick.”

Acute sinusitis


Your sinuses are the cavities in your skull that help drain mucus out of your system. If the sinuses become inflamed (often due to an infection), you could end up with nasal congestion, says ACAAI.

Bacteria, viruses, and allergens (such as mold) can cause sinusitis, adds ACAAI. The condition can be acute, meaning it lasts only a few days to a couple of weeks, or chronic, when, per Mayo Clinic, it lingers for 12 weeks or more.

If your sinus infection is from bacteria, antibiotics may help, but the best thing you can do for sinusitis caused by a virus is control the symptoms. Stay away from antihistamines, which dry things out, says Dr. Liberatore, in favor of OTC decongestants, which help drain the sinuses instead. (Caution: decongestants can raise blood pressure, so if you have hypertension, talk to your doctor before taking them.) Nasal sprays containing steroids may also help.

Once the congestion and stuffy nose of acute sinusitis have eased, flush away the mucus with a saline rinse, says Dr. Liberatore.

Chronic sinusitis


When inflamed or infected sinuses don’t get better, you might have chronic sinusitis, which is when the swelling of the sinuses persists for more than three months, says NLM.

If decongestants, nasal sprays, and self-care routines like rinsing don’t help, you may need to see a specialist who can recommend other medications or may even suggest surgery. Traditional sinus surgery involves taking out infected bone, tissue, or polyps to open up the passages, making more room for mucus to drain, per the Cleveland Clinic.

Sinusplasty is another option, says Mount Sinai Health System. The doctor inserts a balloon into the sinuses, inflates it to stretch the area, then removes it. Or, you might benefit from a stent-like device, which keeps the drainage holes in the sinuses open and releases medicine to help prevent the opening from scarring over.

Deviated septum


Sometimes a stuffy nose is caused not by outside invaders but by internal structural problems. The most common is a deviated septum, says the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. That’s when the cartilage-and-bone divider between the nostrils warps out of shape, usually because of an injury such as a broken nose.

One sign of a deviated septum is only being able to breathe out of one side of your nose. “If [the septum] is bent over to one side, it’s only going to cause problems on that one side,” explains Dr. Chang.

Treatment depends on how badly your breathing is affected. If you can still breathe fairly easily, allergy medications to open up the breathing passages might help, but many people need surgery to widen the passages permanently. Procedures to repair a deviated septum are usually quick (30 to 90 minutes) and improve breathing in 90% of patients, says the Cleveland Clinic.



Certain things you expect with pregnancy: a protruding belly, morning sickness, swollen feet. So a stuffy nose when you’re expecting may take you by surprise. It’s called rhinitis of pregnancy and is due to more blood flowing into the soft tissue of the nose, says Dr. Liberatore. Some women escape the problem, but if you do develop a blocked nose, it can last the entire nine months.

The condition isn’t life-threatening, but treating it with medicines can be risky. Instead, most women have to rely on saline rinses. “It may seem low-tech, but it actually really does help move any stagnant mucus out of your nose,” says Dr. Liberatore. That will help prevent a secondary bacterial infection and can relieve the pressure you might be feeling.

If you have a deviated septum, talk to your doctor about correcting it before getting pregnant, as surgery isn’t an option once you’re expecting, she says.

Enlarged adenoids


Enlarged adenoids are a common problem in children that can make it hard to breathe, according to the NLM. The adenoids are folds of tissue at the back of the throat, which, in a child under 5, help stave off infections. After age 5, the adenoids shrink and aren’t as involved in fighting off bugs. Sometimes, though, infections cause swelling in the adenoids. This can leave your child with not just a congested nose but blocked ears and chapped lips from breathing through his or her mouth.

Nasal spray or antibiotics may make the symptoms manageable, says NLM. Some children will have to have their adenoids removed though, especially if they have trouble sleeping.

Nasal polyps


Nasal polyps are little bits of tissue that grow in your nose. Chronic inflammation causes the lining of the nose to blister. While scientists don’t know exactly why this happens, they’re associated with asthma, recurrent infections, and allergies, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Polyps usually don’t hurt, but if they become big enough, they can block the sinuses and nasal passages, giving you a stuffy nose, per Mayo Clinic. They can also impair your sense of smell and taste. If you have cystic fibrosis or asthma, you may be more susceptible to developing nasal polyps.

For about 10% to 20% of people with these growths, oral or nasal steroids are enough to shrink the polyps and prevent them from coming back, says Dr. Chang. Everyone else is a candidate for surgery, but even that may not be enough. “Once you get them, they tend to come back,” he says. Some people may need more than one surgery; others may need to stay on medication for years. If nasal polyps do return, you’ll need to be diligent about preventing the triggers of the polyps, like infections, he says.

Narrow nasal passages


Some people happen to be born with narrow nasal passages. If you’re one of them, you may also suffer from a perpetually stuffed nose. This can be caused by overly large turbinates, says the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. Turbinates are tiny humidifiers in the nose that make sure air you inhale is moist when it hits your lungs.

If you have narrow nasal passages, you might find breathing to be difficult just some of the time. “If [people with narrow nasal passages] breathe slowly through their nose then they’re just fine,” says Dr. Chang. “But if they try to breathe quickly, the airway collapses, and they end up having to mouth breathe.” Surgery to reduce the size of the turbinates may be necessary, although some allergy meds and steroid sprays may also help.

Chemical irritants


Certain compounds might irritate your nose and lead to congestion. Fragrances are a common culprit, says ACAAI.

Not only can fragrances stuff up your nose, they can also cut off your sense of smell, which can in turn stuff up your nose even more. “You’re using more [product] because you’re not appreciating the smell, then all those chemicals are irritating the nasal cavities,” explains Dr. Liberatore.

If you think products could be contributing to your stuffy nose, look for fragrance-free options.



Stress and other strong emotions can cause changes in hormone levels that make the blood vessels in the nose get bigger, constricting your nose and making it harder to breathe. This is called nonallergic rhinopathy, says the Mayo Clinic, and is similar to what happens to some pregnant women who get stuffed up. The best course of action is to identify the source of your stress and either eliminate it or find a healthy way to deal with it, like playing with your dog, getting some exercise, or taking a few minutes to meditate.

Other things that irritate the nose can also cause nonallergic rhinopathy, like dry air, air pollution, and spicy foods, per Mayo Clinic. Talk to your doctor about finding your trigger and the best course of treatment.

Runny nose due to COVID-19

People, healthcare, rhinitis, cold and allergy concept - unhappy woman with paper napkin blowing nose

You might think of fever, cough, or shortness of breath as classic signs of COVID-19. But nasal congestion or runny nose are possible symptoms too, says the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

If you think your nasal symptoms are COVID-related, don’t just ignore the problem. Anyone who has symptoms should get tested, says the CDC.

Even if your illness is mild, you should stay home, except to seek medical care. CDC recommends resting, hydrating, and taking acetaminophen to help you feel better. You’ll also want to monitor your symptoms and contact your health care provider about next steps. Anyone who develops breathing difficulties, chest pain or pressure, or other concerning symptoms should seek emergency medical care.

When to call your doctor about a stuffy nose


Treatments for a stuffy nose run the gamut, and most doctors start with the least invasive option before working their way up to more extensive measures.

That means doctors usually start with a nasal saline rinse or some nasal steroid sprays like Flonase or Nasonex. You can also try over-the-counter antihistamines and keep that routine going for about four weeks.

If your nasal congestion persists, or if your stuffy nose comes with thick, discolored mucus, an overall feeling of being unwell, fever, dental pain, or severe headache, it’s time to see a doctor.


Image by BONNIN STUDIO / Stocksy

This study found that even though the average life expectancy in Japan is high, individuals could further extend their lives by implementing healthy lifestyle habits. In other words? Small, consistent actions that support our health make a big difference—especially when we build upon them. 

How certain healthy habits impact longevity.

During the study, the following modifiable healthy habits were recorded:

  • Consumption of fruit
  • Consumption of fish
  • Consumption of milk
  • Body mass index (BMI)
  • Habitual exercise
  • Smoking status
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Sleep duration

Researchers found that each modifiable health habit was associated with at least a half-year gain for both men and women, and middle-aged participants that adopted seven or eight of the habits saw a lifetime gain of up to six years! Specifically, men and women that adopted seven to eight habits at 40 had a life expectancy of 86.8 and 91.3, respectively. 

A few key habits were found to have the largest impact on life expectancy: 

  • Maintaining a healthy body composition yielded a lifetime gain of 1.3 years for men and 1.7 years for women.
  • Sleeping 5.5 to 7.4 hours a night yielded a lifetime gain of 1.4 years for men and 1.6 years for women.
  • Never having smoked yielded a lifetime gain of 3.8 years for men and 3.7 years for women.
  • Consuming less than 46 grams of alcohol per day yielded a lifetime gain of 1.9 years for men and 4.9 years for women!

Remember, these habits weren’t adopted at the ripe age of 20—participants increased their healthy habits in middle and older age (40 to 80), showing that it’s never too late to optimize your longevity. 

The takeaway.

There are many things we can do to further enhance our well-being and promote longevity—no matter how old we are!

To further optimize your whole-body health through every stage of life, consider taking a high-quality, comprehensive multivitamin that includes longevity-supporting botanicals (like mbg’s ultimate multivitamin+).* Like these modifiable lifestyle habits, daily multivitamin use is also associated with increased longevity!


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