Over two thousand years ago, the ancient Greek philosopher Plato stated that "music gives wings to mind" - recognising the value of music to inspire creativity.
In 1894, Louisa Lawson (mother of well known Australian poet Henry Lawson), noted the power of music to lift our mood and attitude:
"Music is always elevating in its tendencies and puts people in better humour under almost all circumstances. It is a solace to the weary, it breaks the strain of care, puts the whole being in better condition, and is often quite as valuable to distracted spirits as doctor's medicine/”
However, it is only in recent years that we have begun to understand the benefits of music for a range of mental AND physical diseases.
Music to your Ears!
It seems music is being used purposefully everywhere you go ...
- If you’ve ever been for a massage, chances are gentle instrumental music was a part of your relaxation experience.
- And if you need to get the housework done, a boppy CD or playlist is just the thing to get you motivated and powering through your chores!
- Movie makers employ music as a tool to help set a mood, and you can do the same in your daily life ...
Research shows that people who listen to music for one hour each day have improved physical and psychological symptoms compared to those deprived of music.
The Benefits of Music for Mind and Body
You’ll be even more inspired to let music play a major role in your life, as you take note of just some of the benefits (excuse the puns!):
Exercise: It’s a fact, if you exercise in time to music, will likely work harder for longer.
Music can also improve your motor skills. In one American study, children learning basic motor skills such as throwing or catching a ball while listening to music, did better than those with no music.
Pain Relief: Ever wondered why your dentist has the radio on in their surgery? Music has the ability to ease the perception of pain not just when you get a filling - but also with chronic pain conditions such as arthritis.
Heart Health: A 2008 study found that listening to joyful music has a positive effect on blood vessel function. For example, classical, celtic and reggae are said to lower blood pressure.
Conversely, music perceived as stressful causes vessels to constrict, reducing blood flow and cardiovascular health.
Making Memories: Music has associations in thought and feel. As smells remind us of pleasant or unpleasant experiences (eg lavender may remind you of your grandma’s hugs), so music can impact our memories. If you have been with your partner for any length of time, there will be certain songs that will remind you of the halcyon early days of your relationship!
Boost your immune system: Studies show that listening to music that you enjoy can enhance your body’s immune response, and flood the brain with “feel good” chemicals like dopamine, serotonin and endorphins.
Relieve depression stress and PTSD: After World War 2, many former soldiers in the US suffered from depression, stress, anxiety and PTSD. Medical staff noticed that when community musicians performed in the hospitals, the veterans showed positive physical and emotional responses. As a result, institutions purposely began hiring musicians, and the National Association for Music Therapy was established in 1950.
Listening to soothing music for at least 30 minutes a day has also been shown help in the treatment of depression during pregnancy.
Good for Creativity and Expression: Just as Plato realised, listening to music helps your mind to wander in such a way that it begins to explore new ideas and solutions. Music can also provide a fantastic outlet for emotions which can be difficult to express verbally. No wonder music is called the international language!
Even the traditionally conservative medical profession is learning to take a more holistic approach to health and healing, by embracing the therapeutic value of music. More and more, music is being found to improve health outcomes and/or reduce physical symptoms in:
- premature babies;
- people with Parkinson's disease;
- those suffering with dementia or Alzheimer's;
- children with autism;
- people struggling with insomnia; and
- stroke survivors, to name just a few.
Whether you listen, play an instrument, sing, or dance, we hope that you will be encouraged to explore the benefits of music for yourself - or make an appointment with a Gold Coast Psychologist at Guidelight Psychology, to explore other ways to reduce stress, anxiety, depression and chronic pain.