Health benefits of learning to play music

5 ways that music can help on ‘the most depressing day of the year’.

Every third Monday in January is known as 'Blue Monday'. Apparently, this is where a combination of the cold weather, unfulfilled New Year's Resolutions and being another week away from payday can make us feel glum. It's been tough 18 months or so for many of us, so why not use music to help beat the blues?

What is Blue Monday?

Blue Monday is apparently the ‘most depressing day of the year’ and occurs on the third Monday of every January. It is supposedly the day where we feel most down and, no – it has nothing to do with New Order’s 1983 hit.

Instead, Blue Monday was a term coined by psychologist Cliff Arnall back in 2004.

When is Blue Monday?

This year, Blue Monday will be on January 16th 2023.

1) Music is great physical exercise

Whatever instrument you might play, your body gets physical exercise. Whether you're strumming a guitar, playing the drums or pressing the keys of a piano, you're moving your body and engaging your muscles in ways that will strengthen your body.

Drummers, and really enthusiastic performers with any instrument, will benefit the most from cardio exercise. In fact, a 2008 study found that drummers are fitter than Premier League footballers. 90 minutes of drumming can raise your heart rate to as much as 190 BPM.

The NHS recommends at least two hours of exercise a week in order to keep our mind and body healthy.

2) Music improves your posture

Playing an instrument requires some control of your posture. Good posture, in turn, can help to reduce aches and pains and may even help with signs of anxiety or depression.

A study from 2017 found that sitting with an upright posture can reduce signs of fatigue and anxiety. As you learn to play music, you'll soon learn the importance of holding a straight-backed position and this may help you in ways you might not have even known.

3) Music can lower your blood pressure

Playing music can lower your blood pressure, and reduce your heart rate. Studies have shown that slow and calming orchestral music has the most positive impact on heart health, and can even be used to reverse blood pressure problems at a pre-medication stage.

The mental health benefits of playing music

Playing music has a number of health benefits, including combatting anxiety and stress.

4) Music limits your sedentary time

When people are bored and have nothing to do, they might reach for the TV remote. Then, it's easy to fall into the trap of binge-watching an entire TV series. Sitting on the sofa for hours or end is very bad for overall health. A sedentary lifestyle is harmful and may lead to long-term health issues.

If you play an instrument, you can pick it up when you've got half an hour to spare. Playing an instrument keeps your body moving, and reduces your time spent sitting still. Once you've finished playing, you're more likely to move onto something new. No more mindless channel surfing!

5) Music can improve your mental health

We can't ignore the importance of mental health. Playing music provides a mood boost, and can help to stave off depression, anxiety and negative thoughts. It can reduce stress and improve confidence, giving a sense of purpose.

In addition, learning to play music is great for overall brain development. It can train your brain, improve your memory and help to build connections using your senses and motor movements. Studies have shown that playing an instrument maintains speedy neural responses.

As we age, our brain connections start to slow down. Conditions like Alzheimer's are a concern, and slower responses can lead to a risk of injury. Playing music can slow down this natural brain degradation, and is valuable even for older people.

Whether you're seeking to improve mental or physical health, it's clear that playing music can help. Picking up an instrument can improve your mind and body, reducing risks of illness and injury.