Let’s exercise our brains! We all know the importance of exercise. It helps our bodies get moving, our hearts beating and our blood pumping. So how do you exercise the brain?
Well, to answer that question, we have to ask ourselves, “What would be some good brain exercises?” Memory, both short- and long-term, is crucial to our daily functioning, so any exercise routine for the brain needs to include some memory work. Next is mood: a brain in good spirits works much more efficiently, so we need a way to improve our mood. Finally, because focus helps us organize our thoughts and get things done, we will want an exercise to help aim our attention efficiently and effectively.
Thanks to some thorough research by Dr. Oliver Sacks, we have an answer to these questions in the form of music. Dr. Sacks wrote Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain which looks at music as a pathway into our brains. The author examines how music has the power to move and heal us. Dr. Sacks’ work highlights how music can show us the “heights or depths of emotion” and even help “remind us of our first date.” If we are looking for an exercise for the brain to assist our memory, mood and focus, well then music fits the bill.
Let’s examine memory first: listening to music from our youth conjures all kinds of memories from when that music made such an impact on our lives. Try it yourself by listening to music that reminds you of growing up. Thankfully with the internet, there are many places online, such as YouTube, with a cornucopia of music to listen to from every genre and decade. No matter what you listened to at any stage of your life, chances are it can be found online. As you listen, remember back to your days hearing to the music for the first time. Think of where you were, who you were with and why the music meant so much to you. You will be amazed by what memories are jogged loose by the music from your life.
Ever felt down, unmotivated or just plain sad? We all get those feelings sometimes and music is a great cure for these emotions. Music interacts with certain regions of your brain to inspire happiness and create movement. The next time you find yourself a little blue, throw on some music with an upbeat tempo and let the rhythm do its work. You don’t need anything too loud or fast, just a series of songs sounding cheery, something that could be classified as a “toe-tapper.” Again, the internet is a great resource for finding exactly what you need.
Focus is crucial when hoping to organize our thoughts and accomplishing what needs to be done. Music helps us focus by removing distracting noises from our day and allows us to sync our thoughts with our actions. Anytime you put on music to “drown out” the noise around you so you can focus on a task is great evidence for music’s effect on our attention. Turn on some repetitious music with a steady flow, such as classical or jazz, and try to avoid vocals as they can distract you. Set your thoughts to the rhythm of the music and let it do its work.
The power of music is well-documented by scientists and medical professionals but you know of its effects simply by listening to it your whole life. Embrace your love of music and have it help you exercise your brain. Enjoy!
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