Tune Therapy: How Music Contributes To Mental Health


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Since the early part of history, music has been a part of human existence. It has proven itself to be a powerful tool for communication. It functions as an archive of ancient civilizations’ knowledge and as an outlet for many great artists’ self-expression.

Many of us, too, have turned to music as a coping companion that allows us to access our deepest emotions. Whether you are feeling down or jolly, chances are you know just the exact melody that matches, if not improves, your mood. Studies have proven that listening to music can reduce stress and improve mood and overall health, among its many other benefits.

But what if we tell you music can help you more than that? Read on to find out how!

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Musical Therapy And Mental Health

“Music has such a large impact on our lives! It crosses cultures, age groups and has an effect on everyone. It can make you smile, dance, sing, cry, instantly recall memories like they were yesterday and process emotion.”  Abigail Saneholtz, Psy.D said. In the field of medicine, the area of music therapy involves using music as an intervention for a person’s well-being. This practice can be traced back as far back as the writings of Aristotle and Plato but was only formally established as a discipline after the World War as a response to survivors’ physical and emotional trauma from war.

Similar to occupational and physical therapies, music therapy requires administration by licensed music therapists. Because it is a non-invasive treatment, even the most reserved patients can open up more quickly, and the outcomes uniquely cater to their psychological needs. Moreover, due to the ubiquity of music, its use in therapy can address various mental issues, such as anxiety and self-reflection. “Just to clarify, music therapy is the evidence-based use of music in clinical situations that help people reach desired health outcomes.” Neuropsychologist Daniel Levitin, PhD explains.

You do not need a background in music to enjoy the benefits of music therapy. In this treatment, an individual can either engage in passive activities for relaxation, such as listening to music or be actively involved in music-making such as by playing the drums. Neuroscientific research has established that listening to music activates multiple areas of the brain compared to other tasks, which proves that it is a great brain exercise. In contrast, activities such as reading and solving math problems stimulate only a few brain regions.


What Happens In Your Head

According to MRI scans of individuals, listening to music involves various tasks of unpacking the sound into its elements, such as rhythm, melody, and meaning. These account for the multiple brain activities that occur as one enjoys tunes. Examining the brains of musicians themselves, neuroscientists found out that the brain is even more active and stimulated when creating music. “Music acts as a medium for processing emotions, trauma, and grief—but music can also be utilized as a regulating or calming agent for anxiety or for dysregulation.” Molly Warren, MM, LPMT, MT-BC elaborates.

The finding suggests that more than listening to music, actually making music entails more benefits. The reason is that playing an instrument activates auditory, visual, and motor functions with every note. When exercised continuously, we become more skilled in these functions, which we can apply in our other tasks where they are required.

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Indeed, music is an integral part of human life, and it is not difficult to see why, with all its benefits to our mental health. Now maybe the perfect time to either begin your musical journey by learning an instrument or updating your favorite playlist.

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