Societies have been using the healing power of music over time, but how does it work?
We all know that music goes a long way in helping us relax, reduce anxiety, and ease chronic pain. In the recent two decades, science has sought to understand these effects, and much progress has been made.
These changes partly happen because of the impact music has on our pleasure center called Striatum. Music that we like causes a dopamine release, giving us pleasure and triggering our reward-seeking behavior. As humans, we may search for more such fun, moving away from saddening thoughts and behaviors.
Music also triggers our parasympathetic nervous system, lowering heart rate blood pressure. It may also act on the endocrine system (HPA axis) by bringing down cortisol levels.
When we try to learn a new song a new musical instrument or rhythm, our brain reorganizes or develops new neural pathways, also known as neuroplasticity. Doesn’t this sound like a good enough reason to teach your kids how to play at least one instrument? This may prove very beneficial when they grow up as adults.
It has been observed that even just listening allows you to be “one with the music” and in the moment, giving you many of the benefits of meditation. We now have several apps that tap the potential of audio technology, helping your brain into different, meditative, restful wavelengths. Again this is not new; our temple bells, gongs, and conches were played or sounded with a specific frequency to evoke a peaceful and calming response within our brains (Alpha and Theta states).
Music therapy, in simple words, can be explained as applying music in a structured way to your physical and mental health problems. A trained music therapist can understand the type of music that works for you and your mental health and can design something specifically for you. It is much more than a therapist “playing” the right songs for you.
Areas where music therapy is proven to be effective
1. Stroke rehabilitation – training brain areas to pick up the work of damaged parts of the brain
2. Depression and anxiety, general stress management
3. Chronic Pain and fibromyalgia
4. Autism disorders
5. Alzheimer's and dementia – memory losses
6. Children with mood disorders
Research has also shown that it can create social bonds and empathy. Singing together increases oxytocin levels - a marker of belonging and well-being. This is particularly important for a trauma survivor or a depression sufferer.
Do join a music group today; there are many online and in-person options.
Lastly, it's worth remembering that sometimes music may also lead to a negative trigger. Example: One may associate an unpleasant memory with a song, tune, or type of music. A trained therapist can help you navigate through these feelings and emotions and get the best out of the gift of music.
The way to good health, maybe to have the right music for your ears!!
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