On September 19th, I had the privilege of sharing a space with Arianna Huffington, Sir Lucian Grainge, Selena Gomez, and many other influential voices at the first Music+Health conference — an innovative initiative hosted by Thrive Global and Universal Music Group in Los Angeles.

The Universal Language of Emotions and Empathy

Inspired by what I learned at the Music+Health conference, I played Yanni’s ‘Live at Acropolis’ album on shuffle to mentally get ready for an important meeting. As the tracks were playing one after the other, I experienced feelings of awe, joy, inspiration, and then felt a profound sense of longing. In an instant, I found myself transported back to an afternoon at my childhood home. I wondered why I suddenly felt this way, and when I checked the track’s name, it made perfect sense – ‘Nostalgia’.

In the evolution of human existence, music emerged as the primal form of communication, predating the eloquence of language. It can convey and evoke emotions in astonishing nuance even in the absence of lyrics, enabling us to discern the emotional landscapes of ourselves, as well as those who create or resonate with its melodies, and therefore, experience empathy through this shared language.

The Neuroscience of Music

The extensive and diverse panels and conversations during the conference made it very clear:

If the ultimate goal of all human endeavors is self-improvement and practicing the highest art of all — living better lives, then music is a potent elixir. Music, known to activate nearly every region of the brain that has been mapped so far, is the embodiment of a desired state of being.

Yes, the embodiment, because music is not an external entity to our body, rather, it weaves into the deepest recesses of our nervous system. Just by listening to music, we become a part of the musical instrument; the frequency of the firing of neurons in our entire body and brain comes to match the frequency of the music.

As a doctor of Physical Therapy and a self-mastery enthusiast, I was delighted to learn about how music can enrich our human experience. Here are 3 of my favorites:

Music and Creativity

If you’re stuck on a creative problem and looking for a solution, trying to force the answer doesn’t always help. Sometimes the best solution is to take a break, listen to music, or engage in mild distraction to stimulate divergent thinking, allow creative problem-solving to happen on the unconscious level, and eventually get to the breakthrough moment.

Music and Movement

Music activates certain motor pathways in the brain that motivate us to move. Music Therapy has been leveraged by MedRhythms to help stroke patients improve their walking through a mechanism called Auditory-Motor-Entrainment; rhythmic stimulation unconsciously synchronizes motor and auditory systems and improves walking.

Music and Anxiety

Stress is a generative force of life, but chronic and heightened anxiety needs to be addressed.

By activating the Parasympathetic aspect of the nervous system, music can significantly reduce anxiety as effectively as the most commonly used Benzodiazepines.