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Music & Mental Health: Can Music Help You Heal?

music mental health

Music is all around us. No matter which era we are in, music has always allowed people to express and communicate the way they feel. Numerous studies suggest that listening to music is not only a form of entertainment but can also benefit your mental health. Even more so since music therapy has started to play a big role now.

Music has a way of impacting the way we feel, without us even realizing. If you feel pumped while listening to your favorite song in the gym or find yourself emotionally overwhelmed while watching your favorite artist perform, then that’s music working its magic on you.

A study done in 2013 suggests that playing music in the background can positively impact performance of tasks in adults. The study elaborates that playing music which has a higher tempo and are upbeat, can help you process and perform the task faster while a mix of upbeat and down beat music can help your memory. (This is probably why house chores seem to finish faster when you’re doing it with music in the background!)

music mental health
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Have you ever switched on soothing music to help you relax and calm your mind? It works, right? That’s because research backs up this meditative music trend. A study done in Finland (2013), found that people who listened to music responded better to external stress factors. They even recovered faster as compared to people who didn’t.

Music Mental Health
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Insomnia i.e., the inability to sleep, can happen to anyone at any age. Research suggests that listening to classical music is a good remedy for this. A 2008 study showed that people who listened to music before sleeping had better sleep quality.

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The American Music Therapy Association says that Music Therapy sessions can also help you manage stress, improve memory and benefit mental health. But what exactly is Music Therapy?

Music Therapy

music therapy mental health

It is an upcoming field that uses various elements in music, such as writing songs or even just listening to music, to help patients improve aspects of their life. Music Therapists are mostly accomplished musicians who become licensed professionals. They are aware of how music can be used to invoke emotional responses which can heal people. While they have a vast knowledge in music, they are also trained in clinical skills like communication, psychological disorders, pain management etc. It is important to identify your goals and what you want to achieve from a music therapy session like stress relief, enhancing the quality of your life, improving your mood etc

There are four major interventions involved in Music Therapy, as stated by the National Alliance on Mental Health:

Listening to music: As mentioned earlier, music can alter your mood. In everyday life, we usually listen to music that corresponds with the way we feel. Similarly, in a music therapy session, the therapist can play music which matches your current mood and then subsequently shift to calmer music to soothe the mind.

Song Writing: Writing music can prove to be a rewarding experience. It allows you to express how you feel in your own words. In music therapy, this method can be validating and can improve someone’s self worth and confidence.

Lyrics Analysis: Therapy usually involves talking about issues and trying to resolve them. Lyric analysis, however, gives patients a less threatening way of expressing themselves. It’s like providing words to people so that they can communicate better when their own words fall short. In a music therapy session involving lyric analysis, the patient has to give insight or provide an alternate meaning to song lyrics that they feel they relate to.

Playing an instrument: A music therapy session with instruments basically involves playing something to give an outlet to your emotions. Like a group of people can play instruments to recreate the sounds heard during a storm so as to relate to the “highs and lows” of the storm. This also gives them an opportunity to discuss their feelings later.

By itself, music therapy may not be enough to battle medical mental health conditions like serious disorders. However, there is adequate study that proves that music therapy along with other clinical interventions is benefiting people. So, the next time you feel a little low or angry, listen to some music (in the name of science) !

Disclaimer: None of the information in this article should be misinterpreted and substituted as medical advice given by a doctor or a licensed music therapist.