Walking out of a spectacular concert with our hearts soaring from the reverberating memory of the grand finale, it is easy to believe that listening to classical music can be beneficial for humans, even before birth. As it turns out, there is a substantial amount of scientific research showing that classical music can improve the mental and emotional health of humans of all ages in a myriad of ways. Listening to music, especially classical music, has been proven to produce dopamine, reduce cortisol, and even improve brain function.

In 1993, researchers came up with The Mozart Effect, asserting that after listening to Mozart’s sonata for two pianos, subjects showed improved spatial reasoning skillsmeaning they became better at doing things like solving puzzles or playing chess. Because playing an instrument also involves spatial reasoning, children who learn an instrument are shown, after a period of just six months, to sharpen this part of their brains by as much as 30 percent, according to a study at the University of Georgia Extension.

There have been other studies, as noted in this abstract in the National Library of Medicine, that prove in addition to its cognitive benefits, the experience of listening to music also helps manage both pain and anxiety, and may even help the brain repair nerves and grow new cells.

Music Therapy is a thing, after all.

Conceived in 1978 by S. Munro and B. Mount, Music Therapy has been used to activate areas of the brain involved with memory, emotions, and cognitive functions. It has proven especially helpful to ease the stress and pain of elderly and critically ill patients.

How is classical music therapeutic?

One of the key results of listening to classical music is a sense of emotional connection, with one’s own emotions as well as the emotions of others.

“When we hear that a composer has put something gut-wrenchingly elegiac into a piece of music, we are reassured that this is an experience that exists out there in the world, not just in our own heads and other people have been through it, too,” points out Steve Seel in this article about how Music can be a refuge for mental health.

Promotes efficiency and creativity

As anyone who has ever turned on a favorite concerto or any beloved playlist during house chores can attest, another positive effect of music is making us more productive.

Why is this? According to Business News Daily’s article citing psychotherapist Merriam Saunders, listening to music produces dopamine, which stimulates the part of the brain “responsible for planning, organizing, inhibition control and attention.”

Reduces stress

As for its soothing effects, classical music has been proven to reduce cortisol, the chemical that causes stress. This My Scena article discusses a study of 180 patients in which listening to music lowered not only their cortisol levels, but also their blood pressure and heart rates.

Bonding opportunities

Lastly, listening to music, especially live music, helps build social relationships. The same article points out that “going to watch an opera or a concert is a unique bonding experience that’s beneficial to your mental health.”

Not only can you connect with others around you when seeing and feeling that the music is evoking similar emotions among the crowd, but you also establish a special bond with the musicians producing those notes and in essence, those shared emotions.

With all of these benefits in mind, be sure to mark your calendars with dates for this summer’s spectacular NRO Summer Music Festival. A delightful dopamine spike is guaranteed at every performance.

Photo by Nat Hickman.