One of my childhood regrets was giving up the piano. So, I recently started taking lessons again. I love it. Playing music is a ton of fun – both challenging and relaxing.
It’s also a way to boost your IQ, regardless of your age, according to new research reported in Inc. magazine.
Playing a musical instrument improves brain function and can increase IQ by seven or more points, according to a University of Zurich study. Again, these benefits aren’t limited to children. Older adults can also see mental improvement from playing music.
“Even in people over the age of 65, after four or five months playing an instrument for an hour a week, there were strong changes in brain function,” according to psychologist Lutz Jancke. “Essentially, the architecture of the brain changes.”
The study participants aged 65+ experienced increased activity in the parts of the brain that handle hearing, motor function and memory.
The Zurich research is the latest to identify the neurological upsides of playing an instrument. Here are some other well-documented benefits:
– Stress reduction. Playing music reduces stress by focusing all your attention on the task at hand. There is no room left in your brain for worry or anxiety while you are playing. Playing also release dopamine, the brain chemical associated with such pleasurable activities as sex or eating a tasty meal.
– Brain protection. Musicians have been found to have more gray matter than other people. That’s important because gray matter helps protect the structural integrity of the brain, especially in those areas decision-making, emotion, and memory. Harvard researchers found that people who practiced an instrument just a few hours a week saw increases in memory function in just four months.
– Foreign language skills. Playing an instrument improves your auditory processing skills, including the ability to learn a foreign language. This is true for both kids and adults. In a University of South Florida study, people age 60-85 who took piano lessons for six months saw increases in both memory and language skills.
There is significant evidence that taking up any new activity as we age – not just music — can keep us mentally sharp. What’s more, research for my book, You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think, shows that the happiest retirees have several hobbies, including some they took up after their careers. So, if music isn’t for you, consider taking up some new activity that requires you to master new mental and physical skills. You’ll see many of these benefits.
But if you’ve always wanted to make music, it’s not too late! Pick up an instrument, find a teacher and start hitting those scales! Maybe we can put together a band in time for office Christmas party season!