Did you know there’s one ability you can learn to improve several skills in one go. Language learning, analysis, listening, memory, vocabulary—all these skills are scientifically tested to improve simultaneously when you learn this ability.

No, it’s not meditation.

It’s learning to play a musical instrument. Now you know why ditching music class is a bad idea!

Research suggests that playing an instrument lights up several areas of the brain responsible for different cognitive functions. It can even increase IQ by about seven points, according to Lutz Jancke, psychologist at University of Zurich.

Another byproduct of learning to play an instrument is the ability to ‘keep a beat’, which in turn develops your ability to analyze and interpret audio information. This is why adults who took music lessons as a kid have a better aptitude for learning foreign languages.

A Pianist Good in Math and a Physicist Talented in Violin: The Connection Goes Both Ways

History portrays Mozart as a talented pianist and composer. But did you know he’s also an amazing billiard player? According to his biographies, he combined math with spatial reasoning to map out the best path to shoot the balls on the table. The popular phrase Mozart Effect describes the connection between learning to play a musical instrument and its effect in the student’s spatial reasoning ability.

Conversely, Albert Einstein was an excellent violinist.

You don’t have to be as gifted as Einstein or Mozart to study an instrument. It’s never too late to start. Don’t worry; you’re not required to start with the boring pieces they usually teach beginners. You can self-study with these songs or have a teacher guide you.

Learning to play the piano—or any musical instrument for that matter—will give you a sense of accomplishment. It will also stimulate your senses and give you energy to tackle other passion projects you might have neglected because of your job.

Three More Benefits of Learning to Play an Instrument (as Backed by Science)

Improves Muscle Dexterity and Lung Capacity

Learning to play the piano or violin increases finger agility and hand-eye coordination, while learning to play wind instruments increases lung capacity and improves breathing control.

Preserve Your Brain’s Gray Matter

A 2003 study by Gottfried Schlaug, a neurologist from Harvard, shows that a musician’s brain has more gray matter than a non-musician’s brain. The parts of their brain responsible for storing memory and motor skills were exercised every time they played. Study also shows that participants, who only practiced a few hours each week, displayed significant improvements in memory recall after four or five months.

In another study conducted by Jennifer Bugos of University of South Florida, seniors aged 60 to 85 who took individual piano lessons showed significant improvements in memory retention, verbal fluency, information processing and planning skills after six months.

 Stress Buster

Making music has been proven to minimize stress and release dopamine, a feel-good chemical, in the brain. This is the same chemical your brain releases in response to sex, drugs and good food.

It’s hard to find another activity that can give you all these benefits simultaneously. If you’ve been wanting to play an instrument for so long, now’s the time. You have more reasons than ever to start. Your brain will thank you.

Charley Mendoza