Music surrounds us everyday and is an inseparable part of our lives. Harmonies, melodies and rhythm are present in our lives wherever we are. Music is there in the morning radio heading to work, in the lake outside, and even in the construction next door. As a species, we learned to play instruments and make music long before we learned to master language and speech. Since music is so deeply connected to us, is it possible to use it as a healing mechanism? A large amount of evidence now supports that indeed music can be a powerful ally on the road towards health.
Regularly listening to pleasant and relaxing music atmospheres causes a remarkable number of brain regions to become activated, thus enabling individuals to heal through music.
Benefits of regularly listening to music
Have you heard of dopamine? Dopamine is a powerful neurotransmitter that plays an important role in the pleasure and reward pathway of our brain, and even helps memory and motor coordination to support voluntary muscle activity. Listening to the right music can contribute greatly to the production of dopamine and generate a pleasurable response similar to that from eating food or lovemaking.
A relaxing music listening experience can in fact affect our health and healing on a cellular level, helping us reduce stress and stimulate cognitive processing and memory considerably, allowing us to live a happier and healthier life.
Studies show that listening to nature sounds or soothing and relaxing music increases the levels of serotonin and other positive hormones in our bloodstreams.1
Additionally, it is well documented that music improves brain function, activating neural circuits in several areas of the brain providing crossover activity between both hemispheres of our brain. This results in dendritic growth and strengthened connections between our hemispheres.
During exercise, the music we love can in fact help us release endorphins, which contributes to increasing your heart rate and breathing, all part of a healthy and successful exercise session. Researchers now know that the endorphins released, otherwise known as “euphoria hormones”, also boost our immune system through increased production of the protein immunoglobulin A (IgA), which our body uses to fight disease.2.
Healing music in medical environments
Music is becoming an increasingly important aid to medical professionals and hospitals as well. While in waiting rooms, studies show that listening to relaxing and meditation music, or other non-percussive smooth music, lowers heart rate and diminishes other measurable symptoms of distress.3 Patients of all ages can endure stress-inducing or painful medical tests using little or no sedation, in less time and requiring fewer staff members to accomplish such tests. The use of relaxing music with the purpose of healing, not only increases patients’ tolerance to pain but also improves surgical recovery and even enhances growth rates for premature infants in pediatric ICUs. This same relaxing music can help patients alleviate hypertension when listened to regularly in the long term, perhaps reducing or eliminating the need for medication.
There is no question, that we can embrace the healing power of music to accompany us on the road towards health.
Are you using music for healing? I’d love to hear back from you. Please leave your comments below.
1. “Soothing Music Reduces Stress, Anxiety and Depression during Pregnancy Says Study” Medical News Today, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081006093020.htm
2. Amanda Gardner, “Joyful Music in Tune with Heart Health” HealthScout
3. R.W. Lieu, P. Mehta, S. Fortuna, D.G. Armstrong, D. R. Cooperman, G. H. Thompson, and A. Gilmore, “A Randomized Prospective Study of Music Therapy for Reducing Anxiety During Cast Room Procedures” Journal of Pediatric Orthopedics 27, no. 7 (2007): 831-33
Healing at the speed of sound: How What We Hear Transforms Our Brains and Our Lives, by Don G. Campbell, 2012