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Plus: Here's Where Music Resonates in Our Bodies
Your regularly scheduled weekly programming is below. But first, I’m excited to announce improvements and additions to this Wise & Well newsletter.
By popular demand, this free weekly newsletter will now include a self-contained health news brief each Friday, based on new research you can put to use to make your tomorrow a little better than today.
Plus this big deal: Article summaries (always several, as below) now include “Friend Links” to the full Wise & Well articles on Medium, which are otherwise behind a paywall. So even if you are not a Medium member, you can read the full articles. Enjoy!
Paid subscribers will receive two entirely new products:
A second weekly post, each Tuesday, features a full-on health and wellness feature story. (Free subscribers will receive an informative, useful preview.)
A free copy of OLD BULLSH!T, my new PDF booklet that debunks aging myths so you can actually enjoy growing older, no matter how old you are today. Seriously, if you’re 30 or older, you’ll find some serious revelations and advice you can lean into now.
Also note that after four weeks, each weekly free newsletter now goes behind a paywall, with these archives accessible only to paid subscribers. OK, onward…
THIS WEEK’S SPOTLIGHT
Here's Where Music Resonates in Our Bodies
Music is good for the soul, of course, but it’s also been found to improve many markers of physical and mental health. In terms of sheer enjoyment, music can strike us deeply — no surprise there. Reggae gets me from my fingers to my toes, and despite the groans of my family, I’m dancing. Pablo Casal’s 1988 album of Bach’s Cello Suites goes straight to my chest — I just sit, eyes closed, and heave deep breaths. Walking on Sunshine is still my go-to warmup song for running races. Heavy metal gives me a headache, and if you don’t turn it off I turn irritable in a hurry.
I’m curious where music strikes you. Because new research has revealed some fun (if not scientifically profound) details about where in the body music strikes people most, and how similar the reactions are across cultures — indicating that our reactions to music occur at least somewhat independent of our culture.
The researchers had people listen to a variety of songs, from Taylor You-Know-Who to Stevie Wonder to scary movie scores, then point to the part of the body where each song elicited the most sensation. Here’s a quick overview of the results:
“Music that evoked different emotions, such as happiness, sadness or fear, caused different bodily sensations in our study,” Vesa Putkinen of Finland’s University of Turku said in a statement. “For example, happy and danceable music was felt in the arms and legs, while tender and sad music was felt in the chest area.”
Ha! Just like me. And the sensations were largely universal among Western and Asian listeners.
“Certain acoustic features of music were associated with similar emotions in both Western and Asian listeners,” said Putkinen colleague, professor Lauri Nummenmaa. “Music with a clear beat was found happy and danceable while dissonance in music was associated with aggressiveness. Since these sensations are similar across different cultures, music-induced emotions are likely independent of culture and learning and based on inherited biological mechanisms.”
Fun stuff. But then there’s this: Music has also been found to curb anxiety, lower blood pressure, improve sleep and even reduce the sensation of pain.
Now, if you don’t have anything else pressing today, put some music on, baby!
A selection of this week’s informative and insightful Wise & Well articles:
Having a Pet Can Slow Cognitive Decline
By simply owning a dog — or a cat — you may be able to slow the rate of cognitive decline, especially if you’re aged 50 or older, and also especially if you’re otherwise feeling lonely. That’s the upshot of new research that adds to other studies finding physical and mental health benefits to having pets around.
— By Annie Foley
Lifestyle Changes Can Add Healthy Years Even Late in Life
The writer, an 82-year-old quasi-retired physician and researcher, explains how he can greatly increase the odds of adding a few healthy, productive, capable, enjoyable years to his life. And, the science says, so can you.
— By Stephen Schimpff MD, MACP
Reducing Inflammation is a Key to Treating Chronic Back Pain
Disc herniation and degeneration are often blamed, but many people with those conditions don’t have back pain. New research suggests inflammation is the actual culprit. This physical therapist explains what we know now, how it all works, and how to approach prevention and treatment.
— By Zachary Walston, PT, DPT, OCS
Symptom Checklists Won’t Reveal a Mental Health Condition
Beware of simple symptom checklists for ADHD, anxiety or depression, spotted on TikTok or sent to you by a well-meaning friend or a not-so-well-meaning marketer. They can produce results that suggest a mental health condition, but they can’t confirm a diagnosis, this psychiatrist writes, and an incorrect diagnosis can lead to inappropriate treatment or leave you feeling even more isolated and misunderstood.
— By John Kruse MD, PhD
Sink Your Stress at the Pool
Science offers deep insights into the value of exercising in water — or even just being around the water, as this avid swimmer explains. It turns out you don’t have to swim endless laps, or any laps, to reap the mental health rewards from working out at a pool.
— By Chris Arestides, RN MPH
… And from our sister site, Aha!:
Can You Die of a Broken Heart?
It seems to have happened to Debbie Reynolds, Johnny Cash and others. Though dying of a broken heart is rare, there’s a deep, codependent relationship between the brain and body, and new research indicates it’s likely that many more people succumb to grief than we realize.
— By Giana Porpiglia, LMHC
Why are Yawns Contagious?
Yawning shares some physiological effects with caffeine consumption: Increases in blood flow to the skin, and an increase in certain brain activity, which combine for a waking-up effect. Why we yawn in reaction to other people yawning has to do with natural human empathy. However, not everyone reacts this way.
— By Dr. Julian Barkan
RANDOM BIT OF WISDOM
“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”
— Bob Marley
Wise & Well writers are physicians, psychiatrists, research scientists, dieticians, fitness experts, journalists and other professionals who share their expertise to help you make tomorrow a little better than today.