3 Surprising Ways That Attending Live Music Concerts Can Improve Your Well-Being

Photo: Getty Images/gilaxia
Struggling to unstick your shoe from the dried beer on the floor as you attempt to maneuver through a dancing crowd towards the long bathroom line, you might question whether it’s worth ever going to a concert again when you could just enjoy the same music at home.

Sure, maybe there is slightly more comfort in listening to your favorite artist at a safer decibel and in a more tranquil environment. But there are unique mental health benefits to seeing music live. Concerts don’t just make us “feel good.” In fact, they can improve our well-being more than we may realize.

1. Concerts provide a sense of community

When you’re at a live concert, you experience music's ability to connect with people from all walks of life. “Coming together in this communal form of music sharing magnifies experiences,” says Kristen Stewart, LCAT, MT-BC, a board-certified music therapist and assistant director at The Louis Armstrong Department of Music Therapy at Mount Sinai in New York City. She explains that experiencing live music “cultivates connection and feeling a part of a larger and potentially meaningful whole.” Meaning: Listening to music together is a bonding experience, or as French sociologist Emile Durkheim described it, “collective effervescence.” We’re all in it together, which can make us feel less alone.

What’s more, science shows that the rhythm in music helps us synchronize our minds and body movements, which increases our sense of community. “You could think of [concerts] as finding a sacred, euphoric space of togetherness,” says Scott Glassman, PsyD, director of the Master of Applied Positive Psychology Program at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, and author of A Happier You. Clapping, singing, and swaying together to the same beat makes us feel closer to each other—a key component of well-being.

2. Listening to music releases happy hormones while decreasing stress

It’s not uncommon to feel a heightened level of happiness at concerts. Stewart explains that listening to music triggers a release of “feel-good” hormones, such as serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins.

Dr. Glassman points out that a study from Western Michigan University’s School of Music found that improvised singing among a jazz ensemble was associated with higher amounts of oxytocin release. “Oxytocin is considered the ‘social bonding’ hormone,” Dr. Glassman says. “The researchers also observed lower levels of adrenocorticotropic hormone, which is tied to stress.” Singing along with your favorite artists could, in fact, bring down your blood pressure, along with all the other negative effects of stress on your body.

3. Concerts lead to significantly higher levels of well-being

Sure, there are some mental health benefits to even just turning on Spotify. But attending a live music gig amplifies the positive effects. “Just the act of choosing to attend a concert can foster a sense of empowerment,” says Dr. Glassman. “Combining dance or movement with social connection, two other major ingredients of attending concerts, present a powerful synthesis of elements that independently are associated with higher levels of well-being.”

One study done by London music venue The O2 found that concerts increased well-being by just over 20 percent after only 20 minutes of gig time, which was more than yoga (10 percent) or dog walking (7 percent). The study authors extrapolated that by attending a gig every other week, ultimately, this significant improvement in well-being could result in an increased life expectancy by up to nine years (!). Of course, a music venue would say that. Still, if you’ve been trying to decide whether the cost of those Taylor Swift tickets is worth it, it’s a pretty forceful argument.

Want to take it a step further? Join the band

If you want to get the most benefits out of music, try making some yourself: Playing music can act as a workout for the brain. Dr. Glassman says music therapy has been shown to help people with traumatic brain injuries with cognitive recovery, social functioning, and emotional adjustment, referencing one study from Finland in which the participants reported improved emotional regulation, more energy, feelings of competence, self-awareness, and positive mindset. “Some said they were better able to detach from negative feelings and control impulsive behavior,” says Dr. Glassman.

Similarly, scientists have found that cognitive skills improved dramatically among older adults who took part in music improvisation. Specifically, that included focus, fluency (how easily our brains process information), working memory (short-term memory), and recognition memory (remembering something we’ve previously encountered).

If you’re not a musician, remember two things: 1. It’s never too late to learn, and 2. The shower will never judge your singing abilities.

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