To listen: How music heals

Most of us are fairly aware of how music sets the mood. We have playlists stacked up for all sorts of occasions. We’ve got a playlist for our gym time, a playlist for a romantic evening, a playlist for the time to party, and even a playlist for breakups. The incredible diversity in music produced all over the globe fulfills our need for variety and the choices are endless. Most of us listen to music for pleasure, to either provide relaxation or to pump us up, but how many of us understand the healing properties of music? Music not only affects our mood, but as our mood is improved, music affects our physical health as well.

To fully understand how music could increase our physical well-being, we have to discuss briefly how music affects the brain. Much of how music affects us has to do with our experiences associated with certain genres or songs. I.E. A song that came on during your first kiss, or songs that your parents used to play when you were younger. However, you can listen to a new song and It will still have major positive effects on the brain. When we listen to music we get a surge of dopamine, which helps give us feelings of pleasure and satisfaction, the same chemical that gets released when we eat foods we crave. Different genres of music do actually affect the brain in different ways. Classical music can improve synaptic function, learning, and memory. Pop/rock improves endurance and physical performance. Rap/Hip Hop stimulates emotion, language, and motivation. While Jazz music literally soothes the mind and body. All of these genres, plus many more, play a roll in our mood and ultimately our health.

As our medical industry and leading scientists begin to broaden their horizons, there is a new focus on studying alternative therapies that correlate with our senses such as light/color therapy, aromatherapy, and the topic for today: Music therapy. Universities such as Harvard, have already produced evidence to show how music can affect not only our mood, and brain function, but our overall health – especially while battling illness, injury, or disease. Here is a short list of some of the ways music is being used to improve the health of patients all over the globe:

1. People who listened to music before, during, and after certain surgeries are reporting less anxiety/stress pre-surgery, less discomfort during the procedure, and less pain during the recovery period.

2. For people who have lost their ability to speak via a stroke or seizure, music therapy has helped people regain their ability to speak.

3. Music therapy can aid in pain relief, without the use of drugs. This happens because of the “feel-good” chemicals that get released, especially when we listen to a song that produces nostalgia.

4. Music therapy has helped dementia patients find happiness and a more joyful existence. These patients simply “come alive” in a way that nothing else has been able to do.

While music is not magic, it certainly affects our minds and bodies in such a way that

nothing else can compare to it. No drug, or any other activity can bring such deep feelings of connection, inspiration, and excitement as music can. Not only can listening to music produce such changes in our mood and physical wellbeing, but playing a musical instrument increases the effects of music on our bodies. Not to mention the effects that learning a new skill has on our brain. It’s safe to say, listening to music every day, is good for our minds and our bodies. While our moods can affect what genre we want to listen to, the genre we choose can also change our mood. So if you’re feeling anxious or stressed, listening to a specific genre can help you relax. If you’re feeling a lack of energy and unmotivated to get your workout on, put on some high energy tunes for a few minutes and feel yourself getting amped up. Music is such a powerful tool to use, for everything from bonding with others, finding inspiration to do something creative, to either relax or excite us, and to help improve our overall health. So, lets take a minute to listen to a favorite song and let the power of music fill you with SHINE!