Music Therapy: Tune in and chill out - research & findings
MUSIC is a truly magical thing. It has the power to play on our moods, fine tune our brainwaves, pluck at our heartstrings, and unite entire nations under song. It has even proven to have a positive effect on livestock.
Last year a ten year old farm boy from Georgia won first place in a regional science fair for a project on how music improved milk production in cows. Daniel McElmurray tested the effects of classical, country and rock music on his father’s 300 cows. The experiment showed that their livestock preferred classical music over country and rock by producing 450 kilograms more milk.
Music possesses the power to reach parts of the brain that are not yet accessible to us, at least not on a conscious level. It almost makes one understand why so many artists and creatives turn to recreational drug use for inspiration.
We all know the effects that music can have on reducing stress and promoting relaxation, but music itself is becoming increasingly popular in the modern medical industry — a concept being dubbed as “music therapy”.
Music therapy studies and research
Research has shown that music has a profound effect on our bodies and psyche. Those who practice music therapy are finding it beneficial in helping cancer patients, children with ADD, helping ward off depression, promoting movement, calming patients, easing muscle tension and helping with pain management.
Many experts suggest that it is the rhythm of the music or the beat that has the calming effect on us, although we may not be fully conscious of it. One theory, found at www.holisticonline.com, suggests that we were likely influenced by the heartbeats of our mothers while still in the womb. The idea is that we respond to soothing music at later stages in our life — perhaps associating it with the safe, relaxing and protective environment we once lived in.
Several studies have found that selections of Celtic, Native American as well as various music containing loud drums or flutes are extremely soothing. More interestingly, any music listened to live, even at moderately loud volumes, seems to have the most beneficial response. Equally beneficial is the effect of playing or creating music oneself.
“The entire human energetic system is extremely influenced by sounds. The physical body and chakra centres respond specifically to certain tones and frequencies. Whenever the proper sounds were experienced, an amazing right/left brain hemisphere synchronization occurs” — www.holisticonline.com
Music therapy findings
Even if you are not a believer in holistic medicine and chakra centers, music therapy has yielded several measurable results in recent years, such as:
- An increase in deep breathing when hearing a particular tune
- The body’s production of the happy hormone serotonin accelerates
- Music has been found to reduce pain during dental procedures
- Playing gentle background music while working or studying has been found to reduce stress and improve concentration
- Music therapy can help counteract or prevent the damaging effects of chronic stress
- It has even been shown to lower blood pressure, boost immunity and ease muscle tension
- Music can also be used to bring a more positive state of mind, helping to keep depression and anxiety at bay
- It can help keep creativity and boost optimism levels higher
- Certain music has been found to reduce heart rates and increase body temperature — an indication that the body is entering a state of relaxation
- Memorable music from our youth appears to be a very good choice.
According to stress.about.com, “the change in brainwave activity levels that music can bring can also enable the brain to shift speeds more easily on its own as needed, which means that music can bring lasting benefits to your state of mind, even after you’ve stopped listening.”
I can’t live a day without listening to my own brand of tunes. If you are feeling stressed out, uninspired or down in the dumps lately, don’t pop a pill; why not rather put on your favourite golden oldie.