We have always believed that playing the guitar is good for you but now there is scientific evidence to support this theory! Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Don’t take our word for it, after all we are just a little bit biased, but there is a wealth of evidence that proves that learning to play the guitar is actually good for you. So, not that you need it explained to you, but here are the 5 reasons why playing the guitar is good for you.
Playing the guitar is a social activity.
Believe it or not we are social animals and we crave the attention of our fellow humans, if we didn’t why would Facebook be so popular. To appreciate the impact of social connection on the state of your body, one need only consider what happens when it is abruptly cut off. Many languages have expressions such as “hurt feelings” that compare the pain of such social rejection to the pain of physical injury. We now know that those are more than just metaphors: there are two components to physical pain, an unpleasant emotional feeling, and a feeling of sensory distress, associated with different structures in the brain.
Countless research studies have shown that social interaction boosts our health helping us to fight off illness and also to recover quicker if we do fall ill.
One of the main attractions of playing the guitar is to be part of a band and play music live. What better way to gain social interaction than to rock out with some friends in a band! Not only are you gaining social interaction from being in a group you also gain wider interaction from playing live.
Playing the guitar is good for you as it reduces stress.
If you have ever come home from work stressed and had 10 minutes strumming on the guitar you will know that playing the guitar is a real stress beater. However, there is now scientific evidence to support the theory that playing the guitar can reduce stress.
Stress starts in the brain which then kicks off a chain reaction that switches on the stress response in every cell in our bodies. Over time these cellular switches can get stuck in the on position leading to feelings of burnout anger or depression as well as a whole host of physical ailments.
Researchers now know that playing a musical instrument can switch off the stress response, improving physical and emotional health. When our senses detect a possible threat in the environment, the body undergoes a chain reaction in which genes within each cell switch on, directing the cells to produce chemicals associated with the stress response. Playing music sets off an opposite chain reaction that switches these genes off again. However, there is one word of caution within this good news for guitar players. The more seriously you approach your music the more likely it is to switch from being stress busting to stress causing. So don’t overdo it and take your guitar playing too seriously!
Playing the Guitar is Good for You and Your Heart
Stress is bad for your heart so it follows that anything that reduces stress is going to be good for your heart. However, there is more to it than just reducing stress. A study carried out in the Netherlands showed that patients who practised music for more than 100 minutes a day had significantly reduced blood pressure and a lower heart rate. The researchers from Leiden University suggested that the act of practising music had some training effects which resemble those of physical exercise training.
Playing the Guitar is Good For you because it is good for your brain.
There are numerous studies that prove that learning a new skill is good for your brain. Brain training is big business with people selling apps which are touted to boost memory and help stave off dementia. But research shows that picking up a challenging hobby is far more beneficial than any of these brain training games.
Research by Neuroscientist Dr Denise Park at the University of Texas illustrates this point clearly. Dr Park assigned 200 older people to different activities. Some learned digital photography others quilting. The groups spent 15 hours a week for 3 months learning their new skills. They were then given memory tests and compared with several control groups. However, the control groups were not people who had just done nothing. The control groups did social activities, they went to watch films or reminisce about past vacations. Another control group worked quietly at home, listening to the radio or classical music or playing easy games and puzzles. The researchers wanted to see the impact of learning a new skill compared to normal social activities and the results were extremely revealing. The group who learnt a new skill significantly out-performed all the other groups. Their improvement in memory function was far better than the other groups and this improvement was retained when the group was tested a year after the study.
Why does learning a challenging skill have such an improvement on memory function? While brain games improve a limited aspect of short-term memory it is believed that challenging activities strengthen entire networks in the brain. The more challenging the activity the greater the potential impact and learning to play the guitar is certainly challenging.
Playing the Guitar is good for you because it is a truly pleasurable experience.
Scientists have found that the pleasurable experience of listening to music releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain important for more tangible pleasures associated with rewards such as food, drugs and sex. The new study from The Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital – The Neuro at McGill University also reveals that even the anticipation of pleasurable music induces dopamine release, as is the case with food, drug, and sex cues. Published in the prestigious journal Nature Neuroscience, the results suggest why music, which has no obvious survival value, is so significant across human society.
So there you go the evidence, should you need any of why playing the guitar is good for you. So don’t hold off any longer pick up the guitar today and give it a strum. You will be doing yourself the power of good. If you are looking for inspiration then try out some free lessons through Jam Play.
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