There are not a lot of people that are not affected by music. Honestly, there is probably not even a single person that is not affected by music in some way. Just consider how often during the day we are listening to music. When commuting to work, while exercising in the gym, when cleaning our house. Music plays such a vital part in our everyday lives and shapes how we perceive the world around us. Whether your favorite song is played on the radio or a cheesy tearjerker blasts from the boxes in the supermarket, music stirs up emotions and memories in us.
But music is even more powerful than just reliving old memories from lost love or happy childhood days. Music is often considered as “the healing power of the arts“ and can have a tremendous impact on our bodies as well as on our mental health. Just listening to music in the right manner can be incredibly therapeutic and can help us heal. In the following, we uncover how music can be used as medicine to restore our physical, mental and emotional health.
The emotional healing properties of music
Although research has been focusing on the healing powers of music only since around 50 years, the knowledge that music is healing for body, mind and soul is probably as old as the discovery of music itself. You don’t have to be psychologist or brain scientist to know how healing and soothing music can be. Just think about which song managed to help you get through your last heartbreak.
Nevertheless, it can be interesting to investigate the benefits of music on our body, mind and soul from a scientific point of view, to understand what is going on in our bodies when we are listening to music.
Since a while now, music therapy is seen as a valid additional treatment for depression, anxiety and chronic pain, but only recently, music therapy has also been used to treat patients with Parkinson or Alzheimer’s disease.
From an emotional healing perspective, music therapy connects patients with memories, associations, thoughts, and helps them relax, helps them to deal with their emotions and to release them in a healthy way.
Even if memories coming up with the music are negative, it is not a problem, because then the patient can talk about them and finally release the negative emotion attached to it. If the patient kept the bad memories to themselves, it builds up tension, but if they release them, they also release the tension.
How music can lower stress and balances our system
Next to the better known emotional benefits of music, there are also physical healing properties of listening to music. Music, probably the most ubiquitous of all art forms, can help the body and brain relax. The sound perceived by our senses create neurological responses in our brain, telling our bodies to relax and come back into its natural state.
When listening to harmonious sounds or upbeat tunes, our brain sends signals to our nervous system that we are safe and that we can relax. Listening to music can even produce direct biological changes, such as reducing heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol levels. Cortisol levels are linked to our bodies stress response. Listening to music lowers our cortisol levels and therefore also our stress response.
Music can bring us back from our sympathetic nervous system, our fight-flight-freeze response into our parasympathetic nervous system, our relaxed state of being. The sounds we hear signal our body to slow down. Only in the parasympathetic nervous system are we able to heal our bodies and restoring them back to balance. However, in our stressful daily lives, we are often ‘trapped‘ in a fight-flight mode. Music can help here to unwind and facilitate physiological healing.
Not only can music help us relax and enhances quality of life, but it also strengthens our immune system. Research has demonstrated how listening to and playing music increases the body's production of the antibody immunoglobulin A and natural killer cells — cells that attack invading viruses and boost the immune system's effectiveness.
The healing vibrations of sound
In its basic form, music is sound and sound is nothing more than a wave of vibration that carries a specific frequency traveling through the air. Sound is nothing physically tangible, but merely an energetic vibration that our bodies can sensory perceive with our ears.
On a molecular level, our bodies are also nothing more but energy, made up of millions and billions of tiny particles vibrating at a specific frequency. When sound travels, our bodies respond to the frequency of the vibration the sound emits.
This vibration coming from sound can be extremely beneficial in the physical and mental healing of our bodies. Harmonic sound frequencies can assist in restoring our bodies to health by lifting up the dis-eased vibrations of stress, illness and depression in our body. On the level of quantum physics, these low frequencies are in essence only vibrational blockages, which can be changed through music and sound through ‘entrainment‘. Entrainment describes that when you bring an object that vibrates at a particular frequency close to another object, eventually the object vibrating at a lower frequency will start to vibrate on the same frequency as the more powerful one. If you would like to learn more about the healing vibrations of sound, check out our article on sound healing.
Music as connection
The benefits of music are not only limited to an emotional, physical and vibrational level. Also on a collective social level, music can have powerful healing benefits. Music has the power to bring people together and make connections where there were none before. One thing we are missing more and more in our society is the feeling of belonging and connecting to each other on a human level. Our smartphones have brought many positive things and have simplified communication, however, real physical connection is lacking more and more these days.
Music can be a powerful group experience, uniting people from all age groups, nationalities and religions and bridging barriers of fear, hate and misunderstanding. It is known theses days that improved social connection and support can also improve mental health outcomes. Thus, any music that helps connect people can have a profound impact on an individual’s mental health.
And also in physical illnesses, the uniting power of music has been proven to be beneficial. A recent study conducted at Johns Hopkins found that group singing improved quality of life and voice strength and clarity in patients with Parkinson’s disease.
No matter if you listen to music because it brings back forgotten memories or it lifts up your mood, if you do it by yourself or in the car with friends, music always has the power to instantly transform the situation at hand. Because music is such a simple and effective tool, it has perhaps the greatest potential among alternative therapies to reach people who do not otherwise have access to adequate care.
If you would like to experience the connecting and healing powers of music as medicine for yourself, or if you just want to lift up your mood by listening and singing to music, come and join us for one of our sound medicine sessions, where you will explore the healing medicine of sound, meditation and breathwork, making this an experience to remember.
Next to the Sound Medicine classes, we have different and unique sound and music events on at The Conscious Club. Check them out below!
Book your ticket(s) here: https://theconsciousclub.com/book-now
Written by Clara Malzer