The idea of music as a healing influence which could affect health and behaviour of an individual is as least as old as the writings of Aristotle and Plato.

Healing through sound goes back even further at least as far back as Atlantis. Many cultures recognize the importance of music and sound as a healing power.

The healing power of music

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In the ancient civilizations of India, the Orient, Africa, Europe and among the Aboriginal and American Indians, the practice of using sound to heal and achieve balance from within has existed for many years.

The Tibetans still use bells, chimes, bowls, and chanting as the foundation of their spiritual practice. In Bali, Indonesia, the gong and drum are used in ceremonies to uplift and send messages.

The Australian Aboriginal and Native American shamanists use vocal toning and repetitive sound vibration with instruments created from nature in sacred ceremony to adjust any imbalance of the spirit, emotions or physical being.

Musical therapy

In the 20th Century after World War I and World War II it began when community musicians played for war veterans suffering both physical and emotional trauma, the patients’ notable responses to music led to the doctors and nurses requesting the hiring of musicians by the hospitals.

Music therapy had been kept on the fringes of medical science, until the early 1990s when advances in neuro-imaging technologies confirmed that musical activities had profound effects on the brain.

Music therapy comes in two different forms: active and receptive

In active therapy, the therapist and patient actively participate in creating music with instruments, their voice, or other objects. This allows for the patient to be creative and expressive through the art of music.

Receptive therapy takes place in a more relaxed setting where the therapist plays or makes music to the patient who is free to move, listen or meditate.

What is fascinating though is why it works and the benefits you can gain from it.

Mind and music

When administered by a professional, music or sound can be an incredibly powerful treatment tool, because it has a profound impact on the mind, brain and body. According to McGill University psychologist Dr. Daniel Levitin, our brains are wired to respond to music, even though it’s not “essential” for our survival.

health benefits of music therapy_2Therefore our moods, emotions and wellness can be affected by the tempo of the music slowing down (great from relaxing and unwinding) or speeding up the body’s systems (excellent for stimulating a team or class to get the most from their workout).

Did you know that music is like chocolate, it can stimulates the same part of the brain and releases the feel-good chemical or neurotransmitter dopamine, so if you want to lose weight play some stimulating music instead for reaching for the chocolate…fewer calories!

And you may burn more calories because our bodies entrain to rhythm, so when a musical input enters our central nervous system via the auditory nerve, most of the input goes to the brain for processing, but some of it heads straight to motor nerves in our spinal cord. This allows our muscles to move to the rhythm without our having to think about it.

Music enhances

Music enhances learning; even sound waves that make up a single tone or an entire chord are organized in mathematical ratios, and our brains really like this predictability and structure. Music is non-invasive, safe and mood changing.

In our modern world Music Therapy is a profession that is used to accomplish an individual’s health and wellbeing goals.

According to the American Music Therapy Associations, “Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.”

A number of areas of medicine are also incorporating music therapy; these include labour and delivery, oncology, pain management, physical rehabilitation, and paediatrics. And it  is used widely to help people whose lives have been affected by injury, illness or disability.

So next time your thumbing through your mp3 playlist, check you have the right music for the outcome you want – stimulating, uplifting, relaxing, mood changing and of course most of all ENJOY IT!

Connect with Expert Lynn Freeston.

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