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A Workout for the Brain: New Year's Resolutions for Music Lovers

January 1, 2024 | Noel Morris
Audience on the lawn

Festival concertgoers at the edge of the Great Lawn

We’ve all experienced the transformative impact of music. It has the ability to transport us into a different mental space. It can uplift, inspire, inform or motivate. It helps with mood regulation and can soothe the soul.

In fact, studies show there is no better food for the brain than music, as it activates multiple regions at once. By extension, music offers many entry points into its rewards, whether your brain is nudging you to listen, dance or sing along. And best of all, it’s an all-ages proposition. Start reaping the benefits of having more music in your life. Here are some suggestions.

1.   Use the buddy system to discover something new. Bring a friend to hear something you enjoy, and go with your friend to hear something they enjoy.

2.   Buy season tickets to a concert series. There’s nothing like a financial commitment to get you off the couch. And don’t worry; Netflix will still be there when you get home.    

3.    Take music lessons. Chicago has some of the best music schools and music teachers in the world. Many offer group classes and private instruction, including supportive and fun classes for beginners. Before you know it, you’ll be making music in the home and have new friends to boot.

4.    Make a bucket list. Just about every famous artist passes through Chicago, so write down all the artists you’d like to see and commit to making it happen.

5.   Join a choir; make new friends. Whether you have a master’s degree in vocal performance or can’t read a note of music, there’s a choir for you.

“Singing is one of the mega-mechanisms we use for bonding,” said Professor Robin Dunbar at the University of Oxford. “Singing in the shower gives you a bit of an uplift, but when doing it communally, there’s something about the synchrony of singing that creates this massive endorphin uplift,” he said. In 2015, Dunbar published a study in which strangers sang together for an hour. “It was as if they’d known each other since primary school,” he said. “And that doesn’t normally happen if you spend an hour in the company of strangers.”

6.    Give the gift of music. The next time you need a gift for the person who has everything, consider giving concert tickets. Tickets won’t end up in the back of a closet, and you’ll be contributing financially to the cultural life of your community.

7.    Make a donation to a local music program. Supporting something that enriches the lives of others feels good. Altruistic behavior releases endorphins and dopamine in the brain that lowers stress and creates feelings of serenity and inner peace.