“I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.” ~ Billy Joel
I remember the time I gave birth to our son, the doctor played some relaxing, soothing tunes that helped ease the process of giving natural birth. Music can have dramatic effect on the human mind and the spirit, no matter your condition.
From reducing stress levels, to elevating your current state of consciousness, or taking you in a state of trance – it opens the doors to newer dimensions – dimensions which can only be accessed in a certain state of mind.
Music seems to be part of our biological heritage, because infants have excellent musical abilities, that’s why many to-be mothers sing to their unborn child, because they respond/dance to different types of music.
No human culture on earth has ever lived without it: Music has been used across different cultures for healing purpose. In ancient Greece, music was used to ease stress, promote sleep, and soothe pain. Native Americans and Africans used singing and chanting as part of their healing rituals, like the shamans. Even the Chinese character for medicine includes the character for music. Music and healing goes hand in hand.
Lets see the effect music can have on a physical/ mental and psychological level –
1) Improves your visual and verbal skills
Early music education stimulates a child’s brain, leading to improved performance in verbal intelligence. This was suggested in a study among 4-to 6-year-olds who received only one month of musical training. It included training in rhythm, pitch, melody, voice and basic musical concepts, and this proved to have a “transfer effect,” enhancing their ability to understand words and explain their meaning.
Another study among 8 to 11-year-olds found that those who had extra-curricular music classes, developed higher verbal IQ, and visual abilities, in comparison to those with no musical training.
Even one-year-old babies who participate in interactive music classes with their parents smile more, communicate better and show earlier and more sophisticated brain responses to music.
The four ways sound affects us
2) Affects the heartbeat, pulse rate and blood pressure
As Nietzsche, said, ‘We listen to music with our muscles.’ Studies have proved that music can not only strengthen the heart but also improve the recovery of patients suffering from heart disease.
No matter the genre of music, listening to one’s favorite music releases endorphins in the brain that improves the vascular health. (Opera, classical and other types of ‘joyful’ music were more likely to stimulate endorphins as opposed to heavy metal)
At Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, men and women who listened to music soon after undergoing cardiac surgery were less anxious and reported having less pain than those who just rested quietly.
At Massachusetts General Hospital, a nurse-led team found that heart patients confined to bed who listened to music for 30 minutes had lower blood pressure, slower heart rates, and less distress than those who didn’t listen to music.
The rhythm, the melody and harmony, all play a role in the emotional and cardiovascular response.
3) Improves sleep quality in students
Young or old, we all face sleep problems, in some cases, regularly, in other cases, when we’ve had an overactive day. Listening to soft music is indeed relaxing, hence improving the quality of your sleep.
Research shows that music can help reduce several factors known to interfere with sleep (including stress and anxiety), promote physical changes that support more restful sleep (such as lowered heart and respiratory rates), and aid in treatment of Insomnia.
4) Makes you Happier
Music affects our emotional state, making you feel happy, ecstatic or even sad. According to a study, your brain releases dopamine, a feel-good chemical, when you listen to tunes that move you. Sometimes you also experience feeling of shivers or chills while listening to a particular track, this shows that brain releases large amount of dopamine, that gives you happiness and pleasure. So listening to music gives us the same hit of happiness that we would get from a piece of chocolate, sex or drugs.
While another study shows that Music with a quick tempo in a major key, brought about all the physical changes associated with happiness in listeners. In contrast, a slow tempo and minor key led to sadness.
Even when we listen to happy music with the intention to feel happy, it always works as opposed to simply listening to music without attempting to alter our mood.
5) Boosts your immune system and reduce Pain
Music has been found to reduce the levels of stress hormone, cortisol, which can weaken the immune system and is responsible for many illnesses. If you like to dance to uplifting music, then you are definitely on a path to better health. Scientists found that after listening to just 50 minutes of uplifting dance music, the levels of antibodies in participants’ bodies increased.
Different types of music might have different effect, but it also depends on your personal preference and what tunes resonate with your soul. What resonates with the spirit, does have a healing effect.
6) Reduces Depression and Anxiety
Listening to music has much more effect on the human mind and psyche. Researchers say that it can help ease anxiety among cancer patients, have positive effects on their mood, pain and improve quality of life. Researchers from Drexel University found that cancer patients who either listened to music or worked with a music therapist experienced a reduction in anxiety, had better blood pressure levels and improved moods.
7) Keeps an aging brain healthy
Having musical training could help keep the brain healthy as people grow older. Any kind of musical activity in life serves as a challenging cognitive exercise, making your brain sharper and more capable of dealing with challenges of aging.
Even someone with brain damage or dementia can recover memories through listening to music. It is ingrained in our deepest core of being, no matter the language, the sound and the rhythm resonates deep within. Like Kahlil Gibran puts it, “Music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life bringing peace, abolishing strife.”
Here’s another video on Music and the Brain