Learning to play music has much to offer individuals–from simple, everyday things (like learning to break down big goals into little ones) to scientific things (like increasing the speed at which neurological pathways are formed in our brains). Aside from what music has to offer individuals, what are the benefits of engaging in music activities as a group? Today we find out!
Have you ever heard of oxytocin? It’s a chemical in our brains that correlates with long-term happiness. More oxytocin means more joy–not a fleeting moment of pleasure, but a true enjoyment of living.
But what does this have to do with music groups? EVERYTHING! You see, oxytocin is released by developing safe, deep, lasting relationships. (All types, including simple friendships.) Want to know a good way to nurture a relationship? You got it! Music. Singing, dancing, drumming, and playing musical games together capitalize on the psychology of group participation. As human beings, we have a need to belong and feel appreciated. That’s exactly what groups offer: belonging and appreciation. Music groups can also positively influence correct and uplifting beliefs about practicing and performing in a subtle yet influential way.
Enjoying music together–especially creating music together–is a great way to put two love languages into action that increase oxytocin: quality time and physical touch. The physical touch can be as simple as dancing with a partner, high-fiving someone who just tried something new, or even cuddling a child while singing softly in her ear. The “quality” in “quality time” comes from undivided attention. Putting away distractions (including mental ones) helps us focus our attention on others so our time spent together is of the highest quality. Five minutes of high-quality time spent with others has a far greater influence than twenty minutes of split attention.
In addition to long-term happiness, enjoying music in a group can also release dopamine: the chemical responsible for immediate pleasure. In moderate amounts, that’s a GREAT thing! It’s the excitement of accomplishing a goal, the reward of a congratulatory applause, the satisfaction of recognition. Music groups help us feel our progress emotionally, which encourages us to keep doing the hard or monotonous things required for continued growth.
It’s the release of dopamine, like a high-carb snack before a sports game, that gives us a burst of energy in a moment of need. But just as we need a well-balanced diet, we need well-balanced chemicals–and just as carbohydrates should only make up a small portion of our diet, dopamine is healthiest in small doses.
Oxytocin takes time to build up, much like the steadiness of the rising sun, versus dopamine, which is like flipping on the lightswitch. For true happiness, we must be patient so that the oxytocin can be released. If the first day with a music group doesn’t seem to have immediate results, that doesn’t mean it’s not for you. Be patient! Be active! PARTICIPATE! Over time, you will see the results: belonging, appreciation, meaningful relationships, and with those, the release of oxytocin, resulting in a deep-rooted happiness you just can’t describe.
Music alone is fun and full of potential. Music with a group can be life-changing!
by Maree Zollinger