How music heals

Do you put on your earphones while traveling or working to help you relax or focus? Are you one of those who consider music to be a fantastic way to unwind and de-stress? If so, you are unknowingly tuning in to one of the oldest forms of therapy – music therapy.
Our connection with music begins early. Soothing music is known to calm fetuses and help them sleep. Also, using music as a healing influence, is at least as old as the writings of Aristotle and Plato.

More recently, improved responses of patients exposed to music while recuperating in hospitals, has led to music becoming an established and reliable form of alternative treatment. Dr Suresh Chandra, a dental surgeon from Mumbai, plays soft instrumental music recordings when attending to his patients. “Most patients are so scared of visiting the dentist. Playing music is the least we can do to calm them down,” he explains.

Healing through music
Music therapy is part of alternative medicine that uses music to address physical, emotional, cognitive and social needs of individuals of all ages. It improves the quality of life in healthy persons and also meets the needs of those suffering from disability or illness. These are some instances where the use of music has been proved to be effective:

  • A study quoted in the Journal of Advanced Nursing (2002) showed that music played via headphones reduces anxiety of patients during hospital care.
  • Research proves that conditions such as cancer, high blood pressure, surgery, labor pain, Alzheimer’s disease and other age related conditions, substance abuse problems and brain injuries respond well to music therapy.
  • According to a recent study, patients who listened to music in the surgical holding area had significantly less stress and anxiety.
  • Music therapy is also a useful intervention with autistic children, who are generally difficult to deal with therapeutically. Autistic children seem to show unusual sensitivity and respond well to interventions designed with music.

Stress relief
We often listen to music to relieve stress. Undoubtedly then music therapy finds its greatest use as a tool for stress relief.  For many of us, listening to music after a hard day’s work is an easy way to unwind from stress.
These are some ways to help you do this:

  • Since you will have individual preferences, choose music you like and are familiar with.
  • Generally, music with a cyclical pattern and a rhythm that is slower than your heartbeat is better for relaxing.
  • Music can also be combined with any form of exercise such as walking, jogging or aerobics. It will keep you motivated and ensure that you enjoy your exercise session.
  • Apart from listening to music, you can even try creating music – drumming for instance – to help vent stress and induce relaxation.
  • Listening to music can also help you regain or build self-esteem and facilitate expression and communication, thereby helping you develop social relationships.

Children, adolescents, adults and the elderly, all can benefit from listening to music to ease physical and mental problems. Given the inexpensive nature of this intervention, and the lack of any adverse outcome, it is recommended that music be used liberally during all healthcare procedures.

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