An ancient practice linked with physical and mental benefits -- such as an improved immune system, lower blood pressure and positive brain changes -- could also aid in a more cultural matter: really getting into music.
A new study in the journal Psychology of Music shows that engaging in a brief mindfulness meditation could improve focused engagement in music.
The study, conducted by a researcher at the University of Oregon, included 132 students split up into four groups. Two of the groups listened to a 15-minute mindfulness recording before listening to 10 minutes of "La Boheme," an opera by Giacomo Puccini. The recording reminded the participants to pay attention to their breathing if they felt themselves becoming distracted. They were tested for something called "aesthetic response" -- which is their emotional experience to the music -- as well as their "flow" -- which is how much they felt themselves getting into the music.
The other two groups didn't listen to the mindfulness recording before listening to the music.
The study participants marked their engagement with the music by turning a dial. They found that most of the participants -- including those who underwent the mindfulness meditation and those who didn't -- experienced flow and aesthetic response, and more than half of those who underwent the mindfulness meditation thought that it helped them to be more engaged in the music.
"Listening to music mindfully can be a powerful way of increasing your quality of life," study researcher Frank Diaz said in a statement. "We really found significant increases in the participants' aesthetic and flow experience. Some were intense. They were really in the zone."
Beyond improving well-being, there are a number of other ways music is good for both body and soul. Click through the slideshow for more health benefits of both listening and playing: