Thursday, November 3, 2011

Is Listening to the Blues Healthy?

Is listening to Blues Music Healthy? Is that such a strange question? Is it strange because the blues are often a complaining musical style - or is it because we don't really know what health is?

We have very poor techniques for measuring what is healthy, and what is unhealthy. Is there a way to measure health such that we can answer the question, or perhaps just explore the question "are the Blues healthy".

Health is very broad, rich and complex.  And seldom measured. We tend to measure illness - and pretend we are measuring health.  Even the futuristic Medical Tricorder on Star Trek appears to only measure illness.  Health it seems is binary.  Either you are, or you are not.  Health is not measured.

But if it was measured, could we set up a study to determine if people who listen to the blues are healthier than those who don't - in the same community?  I don't mean measure who is 'most likely to be sick'.  A measurement of sickness is not a measure of health.  Just ask anyone who got a clean 'bill of health' last week, and a death sentence this week.  Shhhh... It happens.

So, is listening to the blues healthy?  Or perhaps I should re-phrase the question.  Is listening to the blues likely to increase, or to decrease your level of health? Think about it.

You can listen to the blues on your iPod, or radio, or computer, or... you might listen to blues music 'live'.

Let's confine our discussion to listening to live blues music.  Is it healthy?  Does it increase your health?

The hierarchy of health  shows that health has hundreds, possibly thousands of components, in 10 layers, from genetics, through nutrition, cells, all the way up to healthy communities. Let's do a quick back of the envelope review.

Listening to the blues is unlikely to affect your genetic makeup.  Although it might be good, or bad, for the genetic makeup of your future children.

Can listening to the blues affect your nutritional status? It might enhance your nutritional status - by getting you out to different places, in contact with different people - so you might eat more varieties of food than someone who does not listen to live blues music, or someone who just listens at home. Eating a wider variety of food improves your nutritional status.

Of course you can always have too much of a good thing.  If you eat too much of any healthy food, even water, it becomes unhealthy.  And I suppose it may be possible to listen to too much blues - neglecting other aspects of your health.  But that's not the question we're asking.

Listening to live blues music is a social activity.  Nutrition may be a social benefit.  Of course for some people, listening to the blues may be an opportunity to drink a lot of alcohol - and avoid eating.  So.. the jury is out.  More study may be needed on the nutritional question.

How about cells, tissues, organs, systems and your body.  Is listening to the blues good for your cells?  Your body?  Blues music is 'movement music'. It might not induce aerobic exercise, but it does get people's bodies up moving, maybe dancing, or at least swaying to the beat.  Even though the lyrics may be angry, or unhappy - the beat, the rhythm, the energy inherent in the blues - gets your mojo working. Whatever that means, it sounds healthy to me!

What about your mind?  It is well known that music exercises the mind. And blues music is no exception.  It gets you singing along, exercising your brain as well as your lungs.

And it lifts your spirits.  Strange, but true, hearing someone sing "my wife left me" or perhaps "my wife won't leave me alone" - can make you feel better. Your troubles are forgotten.  You might forget about your pain while you listen to someone else's pain.  It's like the perfect placebo - or the perfect drug - with no side effects.  And not addictive.

And your community health? Listening to the blues is a social activity.  Few people go out to listen to the blues - and then sit in the corner avoiding everyone. You meet people, discuss, build your community.  Some people, I am sure, listen to the blues because of the community - and see it as more important than the music.

There are some who might argue that playing the blues is bad for your health. But I've seen only anecdotal evidence.  Some well known blues musicians have drug or alcohol problems.  But, I know blues musicians who don't drink, or don't drink excessively, for example.  They just like playing the blues.  Maybe, it's like anything else.  If you spend too much time  playing the blues, or listening to the blues - to the detriment of other healthy activities - your health will suffer.  But a bit of blues is good for the mind, body, soul and community.

How much blues is good for  your health?  Enough, and maybe a bit more.

How much is too much?

It's personal - and it can change as you change, from day to day, week to week, year to year. Of course if you have a blues partner, this might be a more complex question.

to your health, tracy  (heading out to get some blues tonight)

Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: