music therapy
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How Music Therapy Can Boost Your Health and Wellness

Music therapy has been well documented to have a positive impact on your mental and physical health.

It has this magical, mysterious power that transcends all boundaries, language, culture and time. It brings harmony into your life when everything feels a bit out of tune (I couldn’t help it!)

I recently wrote about the health benefits of keeping a journal. I strongly believe creativity is a powerful tool when it comes to managing your mental and physical health. Music is something I fall back on time and time again to deliver a heavy dose of ‘the feel goods’.

Music therapy has been around for a long time. From the drum beats of our ancestors, researchers have pondered the therapeutic benefits of music for centuries.

Chinese medical theory believes that the five internal organ and meridian systems are believed to have corresponding musical tones, which are used to encourage healing.

My Start in Music

For my 4th birthday, my dad gave me a tape with Michael Jackson, Bad one side and Eric Clapton, August on the other.

It was my first taste of music outside of nursery rhymes and listened to them back-to-back over, and over again.

Pretty early on I perfected the art of winding in the tape carefully back into place using a pencil whenever it got chewed up in the tape player.

As time went on, always keen to expand my musical education, I listened to a variety of musical styles and artists. From Holst to Meatloaf, Take That to Roxy Music, Bowie to Radiohead.

Instead of going to sleep at bedtime, I’d secretly listen to Steve Lamacq on Radio 1 followed by John Peel, recording their shows on my walkman so I could replay whatever I liked the heard of.

Rumours by Fleetwood Mac left its mark on me. So much that I chose to do a project about it at school.

During my teens, I scoured the record shops for hidden gems. I befriended a record seller in my local market who would scout out albums for me to ‘give a try’.  My dad’s vinyl collection was a trove of audio treasures of music yet to be discovered. He has a great taste in music and in a way, I still yearn for his seal of approval whenever I listen to a new album or artist.

Any song I liked the sound of, I’d learn it on the piano. I even dabbled in song-writing for a while. I would probably cringe if I were to listen to them now. In truth, they were never meant to be listened to by anyone. I wrote music because it made me feel happy and reconnected.

Music Makes Us Feel

I used to go to so many gigs. Sometimes I would book a ticket to see a band I’d never heard off, just to see if I’d discover anything that I might like.

Throughout the good and sad times, music was always there.

When I quit a horrible job, I drove all the way home blasting out The Jean Genie so loudly that I blew a speaker.

If I met a new friend, we’d bond over our music collections and exchange mix tapes (remember those?)

Heartbroken after break-up with boyfriend – yup, you guessed it.

Even during labour I listened to music. During my second labour I was a bit out of it and tried to play the gas an air like a kazoo which had me and my hubby in giggles. George arrived 10 minutes later.

Music simply makes us feel.

And this can be leveraged for healing purposes, too.

Musical Chills

Music has always had a massive impact on me and my mental health.

Whenever I feel overwhelmed I delve into the depths of an album and lose myself in every inflection, slide, vibrato or hammer.

Over the last couple of months, my anxiety and depression have reared their ugly heads yet again triggered by some health concerns. After one appointment, my depression was intense to the point that I couldn’t think quite right.

Instead of heading home, I put on some Radiohead in the car and went for a little drive.  It didn’t take long for my mind to regain control. The way music has such a powerful impact on how your brain processes and copes with thoughts always amaze me.

According to a 2011 study recorded in Nature Neuroscience, the brain releases the chemical dopamine in response to listening to music that you get enjoyment from.  Researchers from McGill University in Montreal marked when participants felt a shiver down their spine of the sort that many people in response to a favourite piece of music.

This is called a “chill” or “musical frisson”.

Music Psychologist, Dr Vicky Williamson from Goldsmiths College, University of London said the research didn’t answer why music was so important to humans – but proved that it was.

“This paper shows that music is inexplicably linked with our deepest reward systems.”

Music Helps Infants

music therapy infants

There is evidence that if music is played during late pregnancy, that it may lead to children being more responsive to music after birth. Newborns may be soothed by music and become more relaxed if they are agitated.

Pre-term babies exposed to music may also feed better, have increased weight gain and have earlier discharge times as well as increased tolerance to stimulation. Music therapy may also help them get a deeper sleep and reduce heart rates.

Music Increases Sleep Quality

Some studies suggest that music can help muscle relaxation and in turn, making you relaxed when you are winding down for the night. Furthermore, it can help increase sleep quality and quantity for sleepers of all ages from toddlers through to the elderly.

Songs with a slow rhythm, around 60-80 beats per minute, are ideal for promoting relaxation, lowering your heart rate, blood pressure and slowing down your breathing.

I highly recommend listening to An Ending by Brian Eno for a bit of end of the night relaxation.

Music Relieves Anxiety

Music can be the perfect medicine for your mind, ease stress and help reduce depressive symptoms. It serves as a way of distraction but can also tame anxiety through a number of different pathways.

As previously mentioned, physiologically it moderates your heart rate, nervous system and suppresses the sympathetic nervous system which is involved with the flight-or-fight stress response of the body.

Some researchers claim that some songs can reduce anxiety by up to 65 percent.

Music Fuels Nostalgia

nostalgia music therapy

Nothing triggers an emotional reaction like music.

It has the ability take you back to that epic gig, a good party or helps set the mood for a relaxing evening.

As I write this, Cream, White Room has popped up on my play list and I feel that chill. I’m transported back home; a happy memory of this song blaring out of the kitchen as my dad prepares tea.

Music was an obsession while growing up. I can recall songs from my youth with relative ease and able to name the year songs came out.

I have developed such a deep connection with some of the music of my youth, that when I listen to it again now it invokes almost a physical reaction within me. Something stirs and moves back into place.

According to research your brain stays attached to music from your youth because you listened to it when you were forming your sense of self and identity.

Daniel Levitin, author of This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession said:

“We are discovering music on our own for the first time when we’re young,” he told Slate, “often through our friends. We listen to the music they listen to as a badge, as a way of belonging to a certain social group. That melds the music to our sense of identity.”

Music Can Treat Chronic Conditions

World Journal of Psychiatry review discovered that music is a powerful treatment for mood disorders related to neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease, stroke, dementia and multiple sclerosis.

It reviewed 25 trials with researchers concluding that music is a valid therapy to reduce depression and anxiety, improving self esteem and quality of life.

The therapeutic benefits of music are clear. Next time you need a happiness boost, dig out those old records you’d forgotten about or listen your favourite playlist.

Do you listen to music to help boost your happiness and wellbeing? I’d love to know what’s your favourite music and how does it make you feel?

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33 Comments

  • Fairy Kissed Daisy

    Great post! People (irl) think I’m a little strange when I tell them how many times music has saved me or lifted me from a bad place. When I need to sit in my sadness I will put my headphones on and put on some powerful lyrical songs, when I’m frustrated or stressed I’ll put on some songs to silly dance to whether it be rock or cheesy pop and when I feel disconnected I’ll find a song I love to sing and will give it my all. I’m so grateful that music has played such a big part in my life.

  • welshmumofone

    I love listening to music and I really think that it improves my mood, especially when I’m particularly anxious, something relaxing really helps me.

  • Suzi

    Your youth sounds very similar to mine! I miss going to gigs, but I’ve still got all my mix tapes! I really enjoyed reading this, and found it thought-provo,Ing; thanks!

  • nightwisprav3n

    Music was my lifeline growing up. That’s why I named my blog Rockin Random Mom. Music has saved me many times over. It was there for me when no one else was. And getting lost in the music is one of my favorite past times. Even now that I’m 40 years old I still will take an evening to lay in my bed with my headphones and just listen to music after everyone goes to sleep. I play music all day long (except at work). I go on long drives just to listen to music. I love this post! I’m so glad I’m not the only one who sees music as a valuable resource for our mental health. #LGRTStumble

  • Morgan Prince

    I love listening to music, it can SO improve my mood. I agree that it can be relaxing too, especially when doing yoga. 🙂
    #fortheloveofblog

  • Hayley

    This is such an interesting and thought -provoking post. Music is very definitely very powerful. I loved Steve Lemaq and Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours too xx #fortheloveofBLOG

    • Anuma

      oh yes, music is life and its so powerful. I always used to listen music when I was pregnant, in result both my kid listen to bollywood radio all night 🤗.
      Love your post.

  • Joanne

    I love music, it can help to relax me or to lift my mood. My baby son seems to love music too and his wee legs start to kick as soon as he hears his favourites tunes!

  • Lindsay

    Ahhh music chills! I have a Spotify playlist called “lying in bed with headphones on” and it’s truly therapeutic. Thanks for articulating lots of my feelings 🙂

  • huda

    Very interesting! Music is definitely powerful and uplifting. Whenever I’m feeling down, I listen to my favourite artist and I feel better. Great post!

  • Anna

    People think I’m odd because I don’t know the names of songs or the artists who sing them… but I do enjoy listening. I think it’s one of the reasons I like driving – because I have the music on, and find it relaxing.

  • Paula

    Music has always been my therapy. As a mental health therapist… I have Incorporated singing and music into my work, which does wonders for everyone! Thanks for the great article!

  • Maia

    Music is so nostalgic. Hearing certain songs and music takes me back to certain times in my life that I would probably otherwise have forgotten.

  • Daisy

    I absolutely agree that music therapy is AMAZING! I have a child with special needs and he goes to music therapy once a week. It is absolutely amazing and makes such a difference for him!!

  • janna

    I always knew music made me feel better but I didn’t realize it actually promoted dopamine release when you listen to your fave songs. very interesting!

  • Malou

    This is a really interesting post! One of my best friends just graduated and is now a music therapist, in which she specialises in treating people with dementia. Until she told me she wanted to do this study, I never knew that music could have such a positive influence on people’s mental health and other things. Of course, music is also really positive in daily life etc. Like you said, it’s will always be here whether we feel good or bad.

  • Lindsey bray

    I absolutly love music. I love anything from rock, indie to current and past. I makes me feel happy and empowered. Can u imagine a life without!

  • Marie

    I think it’s amazing how we can hear a song and be transported to a different time in our lives. Music is so powerful, my playlist on my iPod ranges from Disney songs to Eminem, I really do enjoy all genres.

  • Mel

    This is such an interesting blog post! I’ve really enjoyed reading it and finding out more about the benefits of music. Your dad had great taste when he gave you that tape! My 4 children love music as much as I do, and our favourites always make us all sing together in the car 🙂

  • Laura Dove

    I LOVE music and it’s healing properties, especially the way it can make you feel a whole host of emotions. I love listening to music, the right song can completely alter my mood!

  • Frankie

    What an interesting post, it is amazing how music can transport you back in time and place. My Dad had vascular dementia and music was one of things that he was still able to enjoy and connect with.

  • Stephanie

    I love music, it has played a massive part in my life from the moment I discovered it. I saved up for my first stereo and had music on at every opportunity! I now use music for sleeping, working, cheering me up and housework!

  • Mudpie Fridays

    I drive a lot for work. Which means I get a reasonable amount of time in the car to listen to my music. Rather than storybooks and nursery rhymes. I always feel better when I have had this time x

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