Any therapy that uses the mood-lifting features of music is called music therapy. The idea is to improve the mental, physical, and overall health and well-being of the person undergoing the therapy and to relieve the stress and anxiety of life.
A lot of activities can fall under it:
- Writing songs
- Making music
- Discussing music
- Playing instrument
- Remembering and reciting lyrics
- Discussing music, musicians, and genres
What is Music Therapy?
Music therapy is rather effective for people struggling with anxiety and depression. It is great for improving the overall quality of life. It can even help with various kinds of ailments. To leverage the power of music therapy – you don’t need to have any background in the music or any experience singing, dancing, or playing an instrument. You can even enroll in music lessons to enjoy the same therapeutic benefits.
How Does Music Help with Anxiety?
Here’s what happens in music therapy – a therapist would use music to address the emotional, social, and physical needs of the individual. This allows the therapist to encourage patients to best express themselves in ways that take under consideration therapeutic context in mind.
The interplay of harmony, rhythm, and melody stimulates different regions of the brain. It leads to a calming of the mind. The heart rate, blood pressure, breath, and other bodily functions become slow.
Music therapy in combination with talk therapy works excellently in boosting the production of dopamine – the happiness hormone. Over time, this repetition establishes a reward-motivation behavior. The choice of the music depends on the needs and goals of the participants.
Moving on to how music works to fight anxiety and depression, let’s take a look at an editorial published in the British Journal of Psychiatry. According to this editorial, there seem to be 3 possible ways in which music therapy works.
- According to the first reason, music gives a sense of pleasure and meaningfulness. There’s an aesthetic quality to it that attracts even a passive person.
- The second reason is – music gets people moving. It encourages body movement. Physical activity also averts anxiety and depression.
- The third reason is – music is a dynamic activity. It forces us to interact with one another, communicate, and engage. Since humans are social creatures and because music brings us together – that sense of bonding automatically alleviates feelings of anxiety, depression, and loneliness.
What Does Science Have to Say About Music Therapy?
Music therapy got official recognition in the US sometime during WW2. During that time, doctors and nurses saw it themselves that a large number of patients responded positively when exposed to healing music. It helped them cope with emotional and physical trauma which became commonplace during those tough days.
Many studies including this one have demonstrated that music therapy can speed up the process of recovery. It can significantly reduce the intensity of the pain a person feels. Because of these healing properties of music, it is seen as particularly important in infants and children who go through painful episodes during medication and don’t have any other outlet to find comfort.
One more study talks about music therapy being helpful in reducing anxiety in people who are in ICUs or undergoing major surgeries. It further tells us that music therapy can bring heartbeats to normal levels and also balance blood pressure. All of these things contribute to levels of stress and anxiety.
Another study tells us how music can improve depression symptoms. The benefits become multifold when you combine them with standard treatments such as medication and talking therapy.
How to Use Music for Anxiety?
Ideally, a therapist should start by assessing an individual’s goals. If he/she is experiencing anxiety or depression, they should use uplifting music that would increase the happiness quotient and better the mood.
A mix of different genres can be played. You can even compose your own lyrics. Alternatively, you can learn to dance, sing, or play an instrument. It’s the therapist’s job to encourage improvisation.
To make the best of music therapy, you should try to tap into your emotions. Let your feelings come to the surface and allow them to guide/move you.
You would be surprised how your movement changes according to different moods like bliss, anger, happiness, joy, etc. For effective therapy, you can either opt for individual sessions or you can be a part of group therapy as well.
Other Benefits of Music Therapy
The best thing about this therapy is that anyone can use it. That means even children are good for it. It’s versatile and has a ton of benefits to offer. Below are some of the added benefits other than help with anxiety and stress that you can enjoy with music therapy:
- It stimulates parts of the brain responsible for memory, movement, involuntary functions, emotions, movement, decision-making, etc.
- Lowers and stabilizes blood pressure and heart rate
- Relaxes tense muscles
- Induces feelings of calmness
- Releases endorphins
- Improves communication and motor skills in children. Good for kids with learning disorders and developmental issues.
Music is the language of love. It’s something that no one of us can live without. Music adds colors to an otherwise dull and boring life. It can uplift our spirits and boost our mood. It’s, therefore, no wonder that music as a therapy would have so many benefits to offer.
Curtis Dean writes on behalf of Sage Music School where they base lessons on the science and research of the psychology of learning. Their effective teaching methods create confident and capable students who enjoy the happiness of making music.