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Music helps us get in tune with our emotions and bodies

Feeling like a bit of a Grinch this holiday season? Then maybe turning on some festive tunes can help you to get in the spirit — or at least put you in a better frame of mind.

Music plays an important role in our lives, and the benefits of music are great. Music has shown to have positive effects on our mental health and listening to the beats can even make you feel better physically. And not surprisingly, it matters what kind of music you listen to. (Maybe my mom was right!) Classical and meditative sounds seem to relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety, but heavy metal and techno can actually make depressive symptoms worse and agitate one’s mood.

I have found that music calms and soothes me when I am anxious or sad. It motivates and energizes me when I need that extra incentive to work out. Listening to music can also take things off my mind. Cranking up the tunes relieves stress when I’m caught in traffic jams. I have vivid memories and emotions when listening to some of the oldies on my radio and some can move me to tears. A meme on social media said it best: “I can’t explain how I feel, but I know a song that can.”

According to Scott Christ, a health and wellness writer with USA Today, music has many wonderful attributes both mentally and physically. Music reduces stress by triggering the biochemical stress reducers, dopamine, in our brains, making us feel more relaxed and at ease. This, in turn, can elevate our mood and help us to better cope with our feelings and the situations we may face.

Listening to slow musical beats can alter brain-wave speed and induce a meditative state. Being in a meditative state can have a therapeutic effect, easing symptoms of migraines, PMS and even behavioral issues. In addition:

Music helped put surgical patients at ease before and after their operations by decreasing their stress level. This promotes faster healing, as well.

Cancer patients were better able to communicate their feelings, manage stress and anxiety, and ease physical pain and discomfort, improving their quality of life.

Stroke patients who listened to music for two hours a day found that their verbal memory and their attention span improved and had a more positive mood compared to patients who didn’t listen to music.

According to Nielsen Music, 93 percent of the U.S. population listens to music, spending more than 28 hours each week jamming to their favorite tunes. And the best part? Listening to music is inexpensive or even free. Here’s how most Americans listen to their music:

Broadcast radio: 52 percent

Personal music such as downloads, vinyl, CDs and tapes: 20 percent

Streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora: 12 percent

Satellite radio: 8 percent

Podcasts: 2 percent

Audiobooks: 2 percent

So, listening to music is good for you. Regardless of your taste in music, it’s clear that tunes benefit our health. It is a quick-acting solution that’s almost always available, and it could just make your life better.

BY BETTY NUFER, www.chieftain.com, www.msidallas.com