To most people, music is a form of self-expression. Music helps us make sense of what we feel when we cannot find the right words to say. Heck, our need for self-expression has become a booming business to music streaming sites like Spotify that they curated a playlist for every activity there is: making out, long drives, throwbacks, even walking at the mall. It has become a part of our day-to-day mainly because it makes the stresses bearable, if not enjoyable.
But music goes deeper than being an instant stress relief. For some, learning music can also be a form of healing. Like NYC/NJ piano lessons, it works in a number of ways to address various needs. At its core, listening to music with strong rhythm gives an endorphin boost and improves breathing and heart rate. It relaxes not only the mind but also the tensed muscles we are unconsciously clenching when we are under stress.
This therapy has a rather holistic approach. By playing the right tunes, the therapist intends to touch our psychological, spiritual, mental, and physical frailties to heal our visible and invisible wounds. Numerous studies have proven its effectiveness in the following conditions:
Prenatal music therapy
You must have seen pictures floating around of a pregnant woman with headphones on her baby bump. At the beginning of the second trimester of pregnancy, the fetus’ ear structure is already fully developed, which means they can already respond to auditory stimuli. At 26 weeks gestation, fetus’ heartbeat can already respond to sounds outside the womb. Soon at 33, their breathing can already adjust to the vibration in the music. And by 38, they can already make various movements according to the type of music they are listening to. This therapy is usually offered to expecting women to assist in the brain development of the baby before birth and strengthen the bond between mother and child.
Therapy for preemie babies
The familiar sound of mom’s voice along with some musical rhythm has been proven by numerous clinical trials to stabilize a preemie baby’s heart rate and breathing. Furthermore, a baby born at 37 weeks gestation has a higher risk of developmental delays. Listening to their mom’s voice at this age, whether live or recorded, can improve the child’s sucking reflex, sleep, and their “active” alert time.
Music-based therapy for children with special needs
There are various techniques on how to use the power of music on children with developmental delays. But no matter the approach, music is often used in pediatrics because it is a multi-sensory experience that stimulates different parts of the brain all at once.
According to the Cognitive Neuroscience of Music, when a child plays music, even if it is just a simple tapping on a desk, the sensory, prefrontal, auditory, visual, and motor cortices along with the cerebellum, amygdala, and hippocampus light up all at once.
Music for Alzheimer’s and dementia care
Music therapy is one of the most effective interventions among seniors who are suffering from cognitive declines like dementia and Alzheimer’s. It is so widely used that in Canada alone, 65% of music therapists work with this population. According to a study headed by Alicia Ann Clair, people suffering from dementia exhibit the following benefits when they listen to music: changes in facial expression and tension, vocal activity, increased eye contact, and sometimes even physical movement.
Music in physical rehabilitation
Listening to music can aid in physical rehabilitation by facilitating relaxation, improving motor coordination, providing motivation for movement exercises, developing communication abilities, and encouraging social interaction mainly with the therapist. There are different types of music to suit one’s treatment goals. But whether it is recorded or played live, music certainly boosts the patients’ willpower, giving them the energy to undertake little tasks on the way to getting better.
Music therapy for stress and anxiety management
Stress is a part of life, but it will not kill you unless you let it take over you. It is not a secret that our inability to cope with external stressors can escalate our chances of developing life-threatening diseases like hypertension, coronary artery disease, gastrointestinal problems, to name a few. One of the cheapest ways to prevent or deal with these unavoidable circumstances is by listening to calming music. For persons with stress and anxiety disorders, mellow tunes have been proven to provide relaxation and outlet for expression and improve the body responses.