This is a guest post by neurologic music therapist, Emily Murer, MS, MT-BC.

1. Name That Tune

This fun game can be played with 2 or more  people. You can use a piano, guitar, CDs/CD player, or even your own voice! One person hums/plays a song and the other person (or people) try to guess what it is. Make sure to sing the whole song after you figure out what it is for extra neural benefits!

2. Sweat to the Beat

Think exercise has to be boring? No way! Even the most tedious exercises are much more fun when you set them to music plus, your brain will entrain to the rhythm, pushing your heart and muscles to work at a faster pace. Smart move!

3. Learn to Play an Instrument

Have you heard the saying, You can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Well, good news: the same does NOT apply to humans! Recent studies suggest the human brain is capable of learning new tricks well into older adulthood. In fact, taking on a challenge like learning to play an instrument will help keep your brain healthy, enhancing parts of the brain controlling memory, auditory processing, and motor skills. You may not make it to Carnegie Hall, but you will certainly enjoy neural benefits.

4. Already Play an Instrument? Keep Practicing!

Research suggests that musicians benefit from their studies with an increased memory capacity, enhanced coordinator, better mathematical abilities, improved reading and comprehension skills sharpened concentration, reduced stress, a healthy respiratory system, and superior visual-spatial skills. But guess what? Like so many other things in life, if you don’t use it, you lose it! So keep practicing your accordion (if that’s your thing) to keep your mind sharp and healthy.

5. Sing a Song

You don’t have to be Pavarotti to enjoy the physical benefits of singing. Studies have linked singing with a lower heart rate, decreased blood pressure, and reduced stress. Regular singing also improves the quality and volume of the speaking voice for persons with neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease. So the next time you feel like breaking into song, do it!

6. Join a Choir

The physical benefits of singing are enhanced by the social and emotional benefits of joining a group of like-minded people when you join a choir. Several choirs in the Portland/Vancouver area are geared specifically towards persons with Parkinson’s disease or person’s with early stage Alzheimer’s and associated dementia. Don’t want to travel? Start a group at your home!

7. Practice Active Listening

The neural benefits of listening to music are multiplied when you get your other senses involved! Try looking at photos related to the music, moving a scarf in time to the music, or smelling a favorite perfume as you listen. If you don’t have anything readily available, you can always engage your brain by clapping, singing, or moving along with the music.

8. Relive Happy Times

Sit down with a friend and listen to some of your favorite music together. Relax and share stories about the memories you have related to this music. Reminiscence not only builds friendships, but also stimulates the hippocampus, the part of your brain which handles long-term storage (not to mention the stress-busting hormones that will be released when you share a happy memory)!

9. Twist and Shout

Research suggests that active listening with upbeat dance music increases the levels of antibodies in your body, so put on your blue suede shoes, crank up that music, and boogie your way to a stronger immune system!

10. Feeling Anxious? Hum

Humming a catchy, upbeat tune engages your prefrontal cortex, a part of your brain involved in anxiety. If your brain is distracted by your humming, it doesnt have a chance to make you worry!

Emily Murer is the owner of Heart and Soles Dance Instruction and Music Therapy Services and Creative Clinical Support Services. She is a Master’s level board-certified music therapist with additional training in neurologic music therapy. Not only is she incredibly creative and talented, but she is also a good friend.