Most people realise the power music has – to bring people closer together, make us sing and dance in elation – therefore it is logical it has a positive effect on our mental health. Music makes us happy, because of its relatable or dance-able lyrics imposed onto a catchy melody. What if I told you that is the bare minimum it can do and that it has the power to reduce pain, alleviate PTSD and even improve skills of people with autism?
Music is so powerful that it speaks to us if it’s in a different language, or even if it’s wordless. Listening to Louis Armstrong can transport your soul to the French Square of New Orleans, Daddy Yankee will have you jumping on your feet and Beyoncé will make you feel empowered, sexy and strong.
Because of music’s wide reach and numerous benefits, music therapy is now used as a holistic form of treatment for a variety of conditions ranging from mental health, communication and social skills, coordination, personality disorders, memory and cognitive function. It can help people of all ages and backgrounds to improve their health, functioning and general wellbeing. You don’t even have to have any kind of musical ability! Music therapists tailor each session for the needs and goals of the individual.
Below are just some of the benefits gained from listening to music and some of these can be further enhanced with music therapy.
5. Reducing PTSD
Empirical evidence shows music therapy is useful in reducing the symptoms of PTSD. It can engage people who may otherwise not seek help due to the stigma surrounding mental health and foster resilience in individuals, which is vital for post traumatic growth. Music has a unique link to our emotional experience so it can help us address emotion dysregulation whilst grounding us in the present.
4. Improves Focus
It’s time to switch on Green Light by John Legend, or any song running at 60 BPM, as this helps people focus more. The tempo increases the efficiency of the brain in processing information. Another study found different genres can help complete different tasks at optimal levels. EDM resulted in the highest overall accuracy and speed across tasks, pop music worked well for data entry and ambient music aided when solving intricate equations.
3. Eases Pain
I would have blasted Rihanna in my hospital ward if I knew that music can help ease post-operative pain. Studies of patients have found those who listen to music before, after or during surgery had less pain than patients who had not, and they were more satisfied overall. Perhaps hospitals need to start providing IPods as part of their duty of care. Lord knows, the insurance costs enough to cover it.
2. Improves Social and Communicative Function
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a lifelong neurological condition, which impairs social and communicative function. Music therapy has been found to improve these types of social outcomes in children with ASD, due to its naturally engaging nature. It allows people with ASD to socially interact in a safe, structured way and then build on this in non-musical frameworks. Similarly for people who may have low confidence, communication delays or may not socially interact due to another reason, music therapy can be just the tool.
1. Boosts Mood
Of course, how can I not mention its wondrous mood elevating properties? Music simultaneously increases feel good chemicals like dopamine, whilst lowering levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. This enables our stress levels and all of the negative effects of it like risk of cardiovascular disease, to decrease. So sit back, unwind and be assured you boosting your mood in more ways than one with that new Drake track.