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Music and Psychology: Melody of Harmony

Written by: Nidhi Dharod | Edited by: Atri Das | Illustrations: Roshmija Biswas

Music is a language that does not speak in particular words, it speaks in emotion - Keith Richards

The word music is celebrated worldwide. It has become a means of survival and mental peace in the recent years while contributing to the health sector efficiently.

It is a very well known fact that music is firmly capable of providing us mental space while calming emotional states. Healing is probably one of the most beautiful things music can do, be it emotional or physical. Giving into different genres in different moods is an unspoken rule which is practiced worldwide and above all, music has helped in installing empathy in us, while eliminating hatred and promoting unity.

Different Genres and their Effects

Classical music

  • Music is known to be a pain relief but classical music may provide extra benefits, it reduces the perception of pain, decreases heart rate to normal, improves oxygen saturation and leads to quicker post-stress recovery.

  • Classical music is sometimes used as a relaxation technique that lowers breathing rate during the times of emotional distress. It Also helps in lowering anxiety.

  • It is really soothing because of its slow tempo that helps people in having a deep sleep smoothly.

Jazz music

  • Jazz music has a multi-faceted structure unlike classical music, but that doesn’t mean jazz does not have positive effects.

  • Consisting of various tunes and rhythms with its own unique music stimulates calming effect while recognizing different notes can be mentally demanding but that has beneficial effect on your brain’s development.

  • Jazz also activates certain brain cells leading to a better brain functioning. E.g. Alpha waves promote relaxation, Delta waves helps us to get better sleep and theta waves encourage creativity.

Rock music

  • Rock music is considered aggressive due to the high pitched and repetitive beat, but on the other side of the coin it also help us overcome stress.

  • Fast beats produce a lot of dopamine which increases our pulse rate and makes us feel energized.

  • Rock music plays a prime role in motivation which means even though you work harder your attention is diverted by music making you ignore the perception of exertion.

Music Therapy

Music therapy is a great option for reducing pain, while providing give the opportunity to express without words and facilitate relaxation. Health psychology focuses on various aspects of music to help people improve their overall health.

Music therapy has it’s roots in Greek mythology and also acted as a prominent resource during World War 1 and 2. During these wars, community musicians volunteered and played for veterans and wounded in the hospital. Both patients and nurses experienced difference in moods and inflicted a positive emotional response to the music. The music was so well received that doctors began hiring musicians to play for soldiers.

Currently music therapy is enjoyed by children, teens and adults facing health battles in hospitals. One of the greatest aspects is that it is specific and different to every individual. This means that one child may find success learning a new instrument, while others may enjoy writing songs, singing or simply listening to music.

Where Words Fail, Music Speaks!

Music therapy works for people with unimaginable and unbearable pain because medications aren't enough. Music therapy can help to relieve pain and reduce stress and anxiety for the patient, resulting in physiological changes, including:

  • Improved respiration

  • Lower blood pressure

  • Improved cardiac output

  • Reduced heart rate

  • Relaxed muscle tension

The music therapy protocol is designed to perform several functions like:

  • To provide a musical stimulus for rhythmic breathing.

  • To offer a rhythmic structure for systematic release of body tension.

  • To cue positive visual imagery.

  • To condition a deep relaxation response.

  • To change mood.

  • To focus on positive thoughts and feelings and to celebrate life.

Music Therapy and Cancer:

Did you know that among its innumerable benefits, music therapy finds extensive application in the cancer care units. Being diagnosed with cancer is an extremely serious and stress-inducing event in the lives of individuals, further disrupting social, physical and emotional well-being of an individual. It induces range of emotions such as anger, fear, sadness, guilt and so on. Music therapy is often used in these settings in conjunction with medicine and other forms of therapy.

Both interactive as well as receptive music therapy techniques are employed. Interactive music therapy techniques include instrumental improvisation, singing, whereas receptive music therapy techniques include listening to recorded or live music. Both have shown to improve mood, decrease stress and pain, decrease anxiety and enhance relaxation.

How music therapy changed Forrest’s life - A case history

After an accident while snowboarding, 18 year old Forrest Allen had been unable to talk or walk for almost 2 years. He had over sixteen surgeries during this time span.

He then came under the treatment of Music therapist Tom Sweitzer. He started with a simple breathing exercise. Tom would breathe in and while breathing out, hum a note to see whether Forrest had the ability to carry that out. It took him a lot of time to be able to hum but eventually he did and by activating his vocal cords, he started believing in himself again and in his ability to get better. Gradually that increased and Tom would record his humming. Forrest made an attempt to beat his own record every day. It took him months to finally be able to utter the first two words: ‘Good morning’. Forrest and Tom started adding tune to ‘good morning’ and eventually started taking up different songs. Music therapy brought about life altering improvements in Forrest and gave him a new life.

In the words of Tom Sweitzer,

“Somebody who was in a coma for quite a while, somebody who had thought he had lost his ability to live in this world, and what music has created for he and I is a connection and the belief that there are some things greater to happen in this world when you are at your bottom”.

Learn more about contemporary theories for mental wellbeing...coming soon

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