Does Music Heal?
It is well-documented that people find a lot of solace in music. From listening to songs that help you feel better during bouts of depression, to binging on tracks designed to enhance concentration when studying or working, music plays a big role in daily living activities.
In more recent times, music has helped hundreds of millions of people deal with the effects of a prolonged lockdown as a result of the COVID-19 situation. In fact, many music lovers have pointed to being able to watch live musical performances online and stream songs from their favorite artists as being among the ways they have been able to cope. And who can forget how people in Italy, Spain, and other countries played music from their balconies as a way to comfort each other at the height of the pandemic?
These examples are not limited to any specific culture, nor is it a modern concept. There is plenty of evidence suggesting that music has been widely used, across various cultures, for ceremonial, religious, and personal practices throughout the annals of history. Famous philosophers, including Hippocrates (considered to be the father of medicine), Plato, and Aristotle, have made remarks highlighting the power of music. There are even plenty of ancient drawings and writings that point to how people from diverse civilizations consumed music.
But can music truly provide healing? The idea has been bandied about, sometimes in a tongue-in-cheek way. From a more official standpoint, here have also been studies on the topic. Some have brought proof that music has the ability to reverse the effects of certain elements. Others have raised more questions than answers. So, what is true?
If you create music – whether from writing songs, playing an instrument, or singing, you may wonder if your work can actually bring about change in the world. And there is strong evidence that your efforts can at least bring about healing and well-being in people. That’s right, there is actual proof that your creations can make people feel better. Read on to see the evidence for yourselves.
Studies on music’s ability to heal include:
- Providing pain relief: The results of a music therapy-based study showed that pain perception declined in a variety of patients suffering from different ailments that caused symptoms ranging from mild to chronic pain. In addition, listening to music lessened depression in pain sufferers and reduced the amount of pain medication they needed to cope. This last bit has proven especially helpful in the fight against opioid addiction, since many people who get hooked on opioids do so as a result of their insatiable need for pain relief.
- Relieving side effects related to cancer treatment: Cancer patients who had chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and other procedures often face a high level of anxiety and stress, as well as symptoms such as vomiting, nausea. In at least one bit of research, consuming music was found to considerably reduce anxiety and other side effects brought on by chemotherapy and other cancer treatments.
- Faster recovery from stroke and brain injuries: Speech loss is a common occurrence in people who have had strokes or suffered severe brain injuries. With that said, there have been a number of cases where patients afflicted by stroke and brain injuries were able to recover their speech faster after receiving music therapy. In one well-known case, Gabby Gifford, a former US representative, was able to recover her speech in time to testify in court, two years after a gunshot wound to the head affected her speaking abilities.
- Negating the impact of dementia: In elderly folks, dementia can bring about a lot of distress as a result of memory loss, reduced motor skills, and heightened agitation. Using music for therapeutic purposes has been found to dampen the effects of these and other symptoms in dementia sufferers. The explanation provided by research as to why music works in such instances is that the mind is still able to engage with music, even late after the onset of dementia. As such, it can help with stimulating the memory center, enable improved communication, and assisting with physical coordination for walking, running, etc.
- Beneficial in rehabilitation and physical therapy programs: People who have been in accidents or who have suffered trauma are often enrolled in programs designed to provide rehabilitation and physical therapy. There is evidence to suggest that the effects of such programs can be enhanced when music is included. That’s according to several studies which, after being analyzed in 2011, showed findings that suggested people in physical therapy and rehabilitation programs received enhanced psychological, cognitive, emotional, and physical responses as a result of indulging in music. On a more day to day observation, there is evidence to support the notion that people are better able to follow an exercise routine when it is accompanied by an appropriate music playlist.
There are many more pieces of research which prove the efficacy of music in providing healing for ailments and illnesses. You don’t need to be in a medical crisis to experience the healing benefits of music. Listening to your favorite songs can be used as a preventative measure. How? Here are some ways music can provide well-being.
Promoting better sleepGetting good sleep is necessary for good health, and no one can disagree with that. However, numerous people suffer from insomnia and other ailments that make it difficult for them to get the sleep their bodies need for daily rejuvenation. One way to prevent the devastating effects lack of sleep can cause is by indulging in music before bedtime. According to the experts, classical music can help relax and quiet the mind to induce sleep and even ensure you get into the REM stage of sleep more often than not. If classical music is not your speed, there are many other types of relaxing music you can indulge in to get the same effects.
Starting the day off on the right noteThe mood and energy level you start the day in can have a profound effect on how it turns out. A positive and energetic start can lead to better choices, reduced stress, and a more fulfilling outcome, and music can play a big role. Listening to your favorite songs during a morning exercise routine, while showering, making breakfast, or even when getting dressed is just what you might need to have a stress-free day.
Staying calm on the roadsDriving on the roads, especially for people working in big cities, has been a major contributor to stress. Everyone knows stress can literally kill. In addition, frustrated drivers are prone to being involved in accidents. But listening to music in your car is believed to reduce frustration in traffic and even lessen road rage.
Dealing with heartbreaksSome breakups can take a strong toll, especially if real love was involved. Thankfully, there are plenty of songs that address emotional pain and relationship issues and can help you bounce back in no time.
There is no doubt that music can promote healing and well-being in people. Keeping this in mind is a great way to motivate yourself the next time you set out to write a song, compose on an instrument, or sing on a record.