By Mollie Olsem

It’s almost the end of the year, and as everyone is making resolutions to go to the gym or say “yes” more, maybe you would consider making music your resolution. You don’t have to go nuts and form a band and spend Tuesday and Wednesday nights in your basement with you buds (but this is encouraged), but picking up an instrument has more benefits than just a sick jam session. Science has shown that starting from scratch or learning a new instrument can make you smater, happier and healthier. Take that, The Gym. Here are five mental and physical health benefits to learning to play an instrument:

It’s A Great Form Of Self-Expression: There’s no denying that we live in an age of over-sharing. Across all social media platforms, we’re encouraged to interact with others, follow our friends’ details of their lives and  and confess our daily actives in 140 characters or less. Sometimes, we might not have the right words or audience to express something we really need to share. Emotions, meet music. Whether a guitar, piano or clarinet, composing a medley to get those feelings out can be incredibly therapeutic. Not only that, but learning anything creates such a sense of achievement, you’re bound to get a boost of confidence as well, encouraging more self expression.

It’s Good For Your Health: According to a recent study, making music reduces stress and lowers cortisol levels. Cortisol is a steroid hormone pumped through your body during times of high stress to reduce inflammation, which is generally good. But, when stressed for extended amounts of time, as we often are, It can weaken the immune system, decrease bone density, disrupt sleep, raise blood pressure and increase abdominal fat.  Playing music is shown to drop those cortisol levels and alleviate the ailments of a stressed body and mind.

It Increases Concentration: Any fifth grader can tell you that learning to play an instrument can be tough and time consuming. Maybe they’re working on “Hot Cross Buns” and you’re looking to master “Stairway To Heaven,” but either way it’s going to take some serious discipline to stick with it. Since practice makes perfect, learning to play an instrument encourages perseverance. If you keep trying, you will get better, and you’ll build up a tolerance for overcoming challenges in the future.

Improves Reading And Comprehension Skills: At its core, music is about translating notes on the page to some motion of the body. It’s built upon the ability to read and understand not only the music but the rhythm and order in which is it played. According to a study published in the journal Psychology of Music, children who are enrolled in music classes show greater reading skills and superior cognitive performance when compared to their non-musically trained classmates. Not only does learning to play in instrument make you more musically inclined, it will make you a better reader and more likely to adapt and understand what’s happening the page.

Increase Language Skills: Learning an instrument has also shown to benefit language skills like verbal memory and verbal intelligence. When the brains of musicians and non-musicians are scanned, the left temporal lobe in musicians is larger and more developed than that of a non-musician. The left temporal lobe handles verbal memory, whereas the right temporal lobe handles visual memory. Therefore when exercised, musicians developed better cognitive function in their left brain. You’ll become a better communicator and a better listener.


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