It’s a sad yet simple fact of life that the older we get, the more time we should spend training and strengthening our minds. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think of myself as an OAP just yet… But I do know that brain training benefits people of all ages. And when you can learn to play the guitar and train your brain at the same time, it really is a no-brainer (pun intended)!
But that’s not all that guitar can do. In addition to improving our cognitive skills, guitar playing has a host of benefits that help to improve our mental health and contribute to our overall happiness. From enhancing creativity to confidence and self-esteem, it seems there’s little guitar can’t do!
Guitar playing or brain training?
Processing speed, reaction time, decision making, and memory are all things that relapse with age and the incorrect dedication to training our brains. In fact, even in our teens, brain training contributes to overall brain health and cognition that’s vital to survival.
Brain training comes in many different shapes and forms. But, most certainly the best – at least for us guitarists – is playing the guitar. Whether you’re a novice or an expert, consistently playing the guitar has tons of benefits for the brain and for sharpening our thinking abilities.
Memory loss is a common problem in older people but can pose significant issues to younger adults too. Without the correct training or dedication, memory loss is a very real and daunting prospect that affects many.
By playing guitar, and dedicating time to learning new tabs and new songs, you’ll train your brain to remember the sequences and become more adept at retaining key memories. As humans, our memories often hold a dear place in our hearts and the wonderful activity of guitar playing can help us to keep a hold of these memories.
Similarly, playing the guitar helps to sharpen concentration. By focusing entirely on a song or tab, our attention span is forced to expand and adjust to meet our needs. When playing the guitar and learning new songs, we’re actively developing our focus on something and thereby encouraging our brain to concentrate on the tasks at hand.
Improves social skills
When playing guitar as a part of a band, or simply sharing your latest learnings with your friends and loved ones, playing the guitar can help to improve your social skills. As if sharing your love of music with others isn’t fun enough, learning the guitar and bonding over a shared love of the instrument can help you to build strong relationships – something that proves highly beneficial for the brain.
When we think about playing the guitar, we think of it as a hand-dominant sport thanks to the plucking movement to create sounds from each string. What we rarely consider is that, to move our hands in this way, a significant amount of hand-eye-brain coordination is needed to master each muscle movement. By enhancing our coordination, playing the guitar helps us to strengthen the brain and help it to maintain the balance, movement, and coordination of our muscles.
Improving mental health
Recent research has drawn links between playing an instrument and improved mental health. It’s
actually thought that playing the guitar (or any instrument for that matter!) can lower blood
pressure, decrease stress levels, reduce heart rate, and ease signs of both anxiety and depression.1
We don’t need telling twice!
Although it’s not entirely sure why this is the case, many see the learning process as a way to
readjust focus from the everyday stressors and frustrations of life and instead take the time to relax
and enjoy a new hobby. Many guitarists enjoy learning a new song or tab as a way to enjoy a
moment of mindfulness – something that works wonders for our mental health.
Creates routine and discipline
A routine is an important aspect of mental health. Helping us to cope with and manage change, a
disciplined routine is known to improve interpersonal relationships and reduce stress. By
incorporating the guitar into your everyday routine, the instrument can help you to improve drive
and discipline whilst creating a routine that you look forward to each day.
Exploring creative channels is a great way to let off steam after a tough day’s work. Being creative
releases dopamine, a natural anti-depressant that helps to relieve stress and calm both the mind and
body.2 Playing guitar allows us to reconnect with our creative passions and express ourselves in a
unique and fun way.
Learning a new skill is a fantastic way to break out of a rut or develop new interests and excitements
in our lives that break up a mundane, monotonous feeling of boredom that we often experience
when depressed. Acquiring a new skill can also help to build confidence in your abilities and harness
creativity in a way that promotes calmness and relaxation. Playing the guitar is a great way to
become more confident and build your self-esteem.
The benefits of playing guitar
From improving cognitive function to boosting mental health and contributing to a happy mindset,
playing the guitar has many benefits for people of all ages. Whether you aim to increase confidence
or improve concentration, learning to play the guitar is a fantastic way to express your creativity. For
many, playing the guitar is a satisfying hobby that gives them something to look forward to each day.