Be Nice To Your Brain: Bathe it in Music! Research experts at Johns Hopkins are discovering that music is medicine for the brain. Their investigation, using a functional MRI which looks at blood flow throughout the brain, has shown that listening to music decreases anxiety, pain, blood pressure, and can enhance mental alertness, memory, mood, and sleep quality. “There are few things that stimulate the brain the way music does,” says a Johns Hopkins otolaryngologist. “If you want to keep your brain engaged throughout the aging process, listening to or playing music is a great tool. It provides a total brain workout.”
Every culture in the world has its own forms of music that is enjoyed by all ages. Considered to be the closest thing to a “universal language,” it has been used to communicate throughout history. One of my favorite memories takes me to a bar in St. Petersburg, Russia, where we were having a Sunday morning worship service. Because there are so few churches used for worship, bars are a common meeting locale on Sunday morning. We sang hymns together in our own different languages. It was the most incredible experience! Music unifies races and:
- Is a form of expression and comfort
- Prompts people to dance
- Makes it easy to celebrate
- Is never stagnant and transforms continually
- Can convey messages of emotion deeper than words
- Makes celebration easy
This research on how a melody can specifically affect the brain is ongoing worldwide. A bundle of nerve fibers, called the corpus callosum, connects the right side of the brain to the left side and enables them to communicate with each other efficiently. Learning to play an instrument makes this bridge stronger, even at older ages. Be nice to your brain! Put on some tunes, celebrate being alive, and maybe even do some dancing. You can do it!
#AskDrDebbie: “What do you consider to be the biggest health threat in our society for 2018?” -Jack H. My answer to your question originally seemed to be just my opinion, but I found research to back it up — lots of research! Although it is difficult to absolutely say what is the “biggest health threat,” loneliness is high on the list. Since the 1980’s, the percentage of Americans who say they are lonely has gone from 20 to 40 percent. This is not just a psychological issue but actually a medical one too. While we as a society talk much about diet, exercise, and health-harming habits like smoking, less attention has been paid social engagement.
We humans are designed to thrive on a wide variety of social interactions and networks. Clear linkages between social isolation and cardiovascular disease (heart attack and stroke) and cognitive function have been found but the specific mechanisms are unclear at this point in other areas like sleep difficulties and altered immunity. Bottom line, the effects of social isolation are interconnected both directly and indirectly, and lonely people are at greater risk for everything from chronic inflammation to hormonal imbalances. If you want to thrive, you must reach out and find like-minded people to interact and serve with. Finding a way to serve is a great way to fight isolation.
Thank you for bringing this to my attention, Jack. It is an important reminder that none of us can do life alone. I have barely grazed the tip of the iceberg but you have stimulated my curiosity on this important subject and I’ll be bringing more information in this area. It is a serious issue and must be addressed with the intentionality just like finding time to stretch more or prioritizing real food. We are created as body, mind, and spirit and every part is important!
A Great Christmas Treat – Tahini Date Granola Bars (Maureen A. Bood)
You will need:
2 cups pitted Medjool dates
½ cup honey, agave syrup, or maple syrup
½ cup tahini
3 tablespoons peanut butter
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 cups old-fashioned oats, toasted
1 cup almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped
Here’s the drill:
Line a 13x9x2-inch pan with parchment paper, creating a sling by letting it hang over the long sides by a couple of inches. Process the dates to a paste in the food processor, or chop finely by hand (processing is best).In a small saucepan, combine the honey, tahini, peanut butter, and salt.
Warm over low heat until heated through and smooth, stirring occasionally. Add the date mixture and continue heating and stirring occasionally until smooth.In a large bowl, combine the oats, almonds, coconut, and apricots. Pour the tahini-date mixture over top and stir to combine, which can take a couple of minutes.Spread granola mixture in the prepared pan, using a piece of wax paper to press and flatten it evenly. Chill for about 15 minutes, then cut into bars. The bars will last fine at room temperature, in the open air, for a couple of weeks and remain soft and chewy.
Well said! “So long as we love we serve; so long as we are loved by others, I would almost say that we are indispensable; and no man is useless while he has a friend.” by Robert Louis Stevenson