Music Therapy

July 28, 2017 | Cathy

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Treble clef and notes on staffLicense: CC0 Public Domain

Warm summer nights remind me of the outdoor concerts I attended when I was young. I've always found music to be relaxing or energizing but I never thought of it in therapeutic terms.

But music definitely has mental and physical health benefits. According to a McGill University review of the research literature on the neurochemistry of music, listening to music can be used to "improve the body’s immune system function and to reduce levels of stress."

According to a Medical News Today article, The power of music: how it can benefit health, listening to music can reduce pain and anxiety. For example, listening to music is more effective than prescription drugs in reducing anxiety prior to surgery. The amount of pain felt by fibromyalgia sufferers decreases when they listen to music. Two theories on how music reduces pain are: 1) music distracts the person from focusing on pain; and 2) brain opioids, natural pain relievers, are released when a person listens to pleasurable music.

Listening to music can reduce cognitive decline and may be beneficial for people with Alzheimer's disease. Research published by the US National Library of Medicine (PMC) shows that exercising with music is more effective than exercise alone in reducing the amount of grey and white matter loss (brain tissue) in the elderly.

Another PMC study found that listening to music in the presence of other people provides the biggest benefit in stress reduction. However, listening to music by yourself for the specific purpose of relaxation also reduces stress.

To learn more about music and your health, check out the following:

Music to change your brain Book cover of The 7 secrets of sound healing

Book cover of Secret language of the heart : how to use music, sound, and vibration as a tool for healing and personal transformation Book cover of The power of sound : how to be healthy and productive using music and sound  Book cover of Waking the spirit : a musician's journey healing body, mind, and soul

And if you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend Bad Singer: The Surprising Science of Tone Deafness and How We Hear Music  by Tim Falconer. Falconer discusses his experiences trying to learn how to sing despite being tone deaf. It's an interesting and funny book on how the brain experiences music.

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