The Powerful Effects of Music – How Music Can Impact Our Minds, Spirits and Physiological Make Up

Music can change your emotions, create life memorable moments and make you remember those moments. Music is one of the many artistic expressions of life. In movies, the sound effects used to evoke emotions of love, romance, fear, suspense and even hate, is music.

There are stories of people who experience changes in habits, likes and dislikes after having heart transplant surgery; music was one of the likes and dislike. There is a story about a man after having a heart transplant he noticed his love for a different genre of music. He later found out the same music he now likes was his heart donor’s favorite music. That tells me that music is in our minds, spirits (including soul and heart), and physiological make up (MSP).

Music flows deeper within us than we realize. Music can be therapeutic to children with mental challenges; help children increase the development of a specific area of the brain; used as an educating tool especially for children with learning difficulties; brings people together to celebrate and love each other. Essentially music is present in every culture in the world.

The one music artist that I believe used the ultimate power of music is Bob Marley. Bob Marley created music for people, fame and money just happen to go along with it. His music is also the remnants of his life experiences; experiences that significantly changed or impacted his life. Through his love for music and people, Bob Marley was able to spread his music all over the world and in future lifetimes. For me listening to Bob Marley’s music is soothing to my MSP; I feel a sense of comfort and liberation.

The one performing music artist that touched the world through music was Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson’s stage performance was moving; he definitely had a gift for entertaining others. I remember the first time I saw the music video Beat It, I thought it was brilliant, that is when I became and remain a fan of Michael Jackson.

The one vocal music artist that also touched the world through music is Whitney Houston; her unique and powerful singing voice created music that only her voice could express.

These are just a few of the many music artists that once impacted the world with their deep love for music. Music and basic emotions are universal languages, the emotions evoke through music can be therapeutic, uplifting and enjoyable. Music is also a powerful intelligence, gift, talent, and expression that I believe is taken for granted. Today’s dominating music is mostly associated with fame and wealth; I believe the power of music is reduced to hooks, beats and rhythms.

Personal Experience

I once cared for a patient by the name of Melva; Melva had a stroke that left her cripple and bedbound. She had a feeding tube because she was unable to swollen, her speech was impaired, and her hands were contracted. Melba’s daughter was very active in her care. She hung Melba’s beautiful paintings on the walls of her room and played her favorite music for her, music ranging from the 20s to the 70s. Having a broad love for music I would play a different CD during each of my visits with Melva. Keeping in mind Melba’s speech was impaired, it was difficult to understand her. One day I played a 50s CD and the song Que Sera Sera began to play. To my very pleasant surprise Melva began to sing. For the first time since caring for her I was able to understand Melba’s words clearly. I began singing along which made her sing even louder. This is a memorable moment for me, every time I hear the song Que Sera Sera I think of Melba. Music does make the heart sing.

Is Music Therapy For You?

Some like it soothing while some prefer to dance to the tune; some resort to it to escape reality while others try to find the meaning of life in lyrics, but rarely would you come across anyone who does not like music. Often your heart rate speeds up and scientifically there has been proof of changes in blood pressure and hormone level due to music (the change in blood pressure depends upon the kind of music you listen to, while metal and rock would create a positive change, soothing music helps to regulate blood pressure). The foundation of music therapy is the instant connection and emotional relationship that one creates with music.

In a more theoretical sense, music therapy is the clinical use of music to therapeutically help in achieving individual goals. This alternative health care field has been around for centuries and was initially mainly used on infants and seniors with physical, emotional, and mental health issues.

Over the last few years, the practice of music therapy by credentialed professionals have increased the scope of the therapy by not limiting it to just a particular demography. Today, people from every walk of life can immensely benefit from music therapy.

Since the very basis of the therapy is something that most people are actively or passively involved in, music therapy could have more far-reaching benefits than other healing techniques since the participant will instantly feel a connection. While every therapists approach is different, music therapy largely makes use of composing tune or lyrics or simply listening to certain types of music.

So, who can benefit from music therapy?

Looking to de-stress or simply charge up your body for that workout, music therapy helps leaps and bounds. However, the scope is much wider panning to various psychological and physiological ailments.

Hearing Impairment- Considering that a very few percentage of hearing impaired people cannot hear at all. Others experience some amount of sensation, and music therapy can help such people as the tempo, wavelength, intonation, and rhythm help the hearing impaired to basically improve upon their speech. When hearing impaired children (note: Speech formation happens during the first five years of life, which is why music therapy will help hearing impaired children more) had been subjected to music therapy, they had shown quite an improvement in their speech formation in terms of vocabulary, syntax, and tone.

Autism- Several psychologists and authors have affirmed that children and adult with autism can immensely benefit by listening to certain types of music. Given their uncommon inclination towards music, music therapy will give the special people a chance to experience- without coming in direct human contact- outside stimuli. In a lot of cases when music therapy was applied along with the ongoing treatment, the participants had shown better improvement in terms of socio-economical factors. The experiment reported lesser isolation periods and social withdrawal. However, it should be kept in mind that owing to the sensitivity of their condition, it is best that they receive music therapy from an experienced and highly trained individual.

Chronic Pain- Pain and music are both sensory inputs, as such that in terms of pain when the signal is sent to the brain the person would feel pain as the output comes from the site of emotional synthesis in the brain or the limbic system. The main aim of using music therapy to alleviate pain is to work on the vibrations, and to merge the vibration of the music with that of the pain. The music diverts the patient’s focus from all the physical symptoms, and which is why apart from pain music therapy also works in case of nausea.

Substance Abuse- For most people growing up and when they were introduced to their first pint of vodka or joint, it was almost always with friends or at a party. 80% of people have agreed that they like tripping with some sort of music playing in the background- generally Pink Floyd and the likes. Music has a profound influence on our mood so much so that in due time it can change our traits. For instance people who tend to listen to a lot of metal and rock music are often aggressive, which is evident by the ‘wall of death’ phenomenon at various metal concerts. The wall of death is basically the fans dividing into two groups and when the aggressive beats kick in, they charge at each other. This results in injuries and sometime death. Anyway, the purpose is to explain the degree of influence music has on our brain and hence on us. And just like it can turn people aggressive and lead to heavy substance abuse, it can work to help them kick the habit as well.

Depression- The number of depressed people today would easily surpass the number of obese people in every country combined. Depression affects people of all ages and the musical stimulus directly has an effect on the emotional and mental changes. The therapists often combine theory-based techniques to increase the effectiveness of music for stress and depression.

Although the reception to this alternative health care technique has often been mixed, a lot of studies and experimentations are being conducted to establish the efficacy of music therapy. The easiest way is by listening to soothing music to meditate or calm your mind whenever you are depressed or stressed.

Healing Our Body Through Relaxation Music

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”

- Bob Marley

Ancient Greeks were of the belief that music had the power to heal the body as well as the soul. The power of meditation was also discovered millennia ago when the early man stared into the flames of fire and entered into a peaceful state of mind. Meditative or relaxation music is a combination of two such powers as mighty enough to deliver individuals from their mental as well as physical problems. Although discoveries were made ages ago, it was only in the 1940s that medical experts and scientists started to research the influence of music on the human body and its assistance to overcome various ailments.

Music has been used as a therapy tool by doctors for several years. Relaxation music allegedly distracts patients from their pain and helps them calm down in troubled times. However, scientific evidence from the Research Center at the Utah University has confirmed that music can help divert patients’ minds to lessen their pain. A musician and university professor, David H. Bradshaw, noted an affirmative connection between relieving pain from headaches and practicing music through personal experiences.

Study Proving the Influence of Music on Pain

Intrigued by his curiosity, he joined forces with four other university doctors – from the University of Utah’s anesthesiology department and used more than 150 healthy volunteers to confirm his theory. The subjects were divided into two groups and each group received shocks or painful stimulations of varying intensities from electrodes on the tip of their fingers. One group went through the mild pain in an environment where music was being played in the background while the second group was delegated with several musical assignments of differing difficulties. The tasks involved recognizing the changing directions of a melody or the identification of deviant tones. The harmonies used for the research were the compositions of Miguel Chuaqui – the head of the university’s School of Music’s composition program.

When the subjects received shocks, researchers found that there were quantifiable electrical potentials within the subjects’ skin conductance, pupil dilation, and nervous systems. Using this data, the researchers measured their subjects’ peripheral and central arousal, or the level of pain they experienced. Based on the study, Bradshaw’s team uncovered that the alterations in stimulus arousal or net engagement related to the performance of musical tasks decreased when the difficulty of tasks increased. The research team proved, through the test, that the subjects’ overall pain decreased when they focused on the music and the task at hand.

The Magic of Relaxation Music

The sensory channels in our bodies are activated by music. They provoke emotional responses and captivate mental attention to fight against the pain channels. The synergy of music and pain therefore reduces our bodies’ response and increases tolerance. However, the magnitude of pain reduction differs among individuals owing to personality traits such as their ability to focus on a particular activity and their anxiety levels.

Relaxation Music Therapy to Help People with AIDS and Cancer Patients

Music’s influence on pain has extended its use into several fields in terms of health and well-being. Music therapy is becoming increasingly popular and emerging as a whole new field in itself. The AMTA (American Music Therapy Association) reports that music is useful in addressing social, physical, emotional, and cognitive needs. Treatment does not only involve listening to music, but also singing, creating, and moving to music. Alleviation of pain, management of stress, improvement of communication, and enhancement of memory can be successfully completed by using music therapy.

Many recent studies have been conducted in different parts of the world to test the influence of music on people with personal issues and illnesses. The Drexel University’s researchers, for instance, discovered that music can improve the BP levels in cancer patients and also elevate the moods of people suffering from AIDS or Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers at Sweden’s University of Gothenburg revealed that relaxation music not only helped subjects relax when listening to it, but also proved that they experienced a flurry of positive emotions at a higher frequency and with higher intensity. In addition, the same subjects showed signs of lower stress and their cortisol levels (stress hormone in humans) also reduced significantly.

The Findings and Revelations of the American Cancer Society

The ACS (American Cancer Society) denoted that relaxation music can help in reducing heart rate, breathing rates, and blood pressure. It can also lower the symptoms of insomnia, anxiety, and depression to a great extent. Patients who receive chemotherapy and anti-nausea drugs in high doses can ease vomiting and nausea by using music therapy. Relaxation music also helps relieve the short-term pain experienced by cancer patients.

The ACS indicated that hospice patients such as those suffering from cancer or AIDS improved their quality of life through the power of relaxation music. Music therapy has helped in improving their relaxation and comfort levels while also aiding in pain control. In some patients, relaxation music has dilated veins and relaxed muscles, which has significantly helped decrease the discomfort experienced during invasive procedures.

Impact of Meditative Music on People Suffering with Alzheimer’s disease

People suffering from Alzheimer’s disease can make the most of relaxation music to achieve assistance in daily life. Even during the latter stages of Alzheimer’s disease, a patient’s ability to engross in musical activities and interact with rhythmic cues remains intact. The cognitive functioning necessary for the processing of these cues is impaired during the late stages, so unfamiliar relaxation music can help in relaxing patients by inducing sleep and managing stress. Sedative or meditative music with no syncopation or percussion and slower tempos has the potential to help people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease change the routines which cause agitation and go to bed with relative ease.

Relaxation music has the ability to put listeners into a calm state of mind. Whether it involves stimulating a patient affected by dementia, retrieving memories, relieving pain, or soothing an individual who has had a long day, week, a month, or a year, relaxation music possesses the kind of healing power that arguably goes beyond scientific reasoning.

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the minds, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” – Plato