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  • Dora Ollivier Alarcon

Music makes minds healthy

Music is a powerful tool, which has many benefits for humans. Through centuries it has helped us get through life’s biggest highs and lows. Mostly people develop their taste in music in their teenage and early adult years. An average teenager spends about 2.5 hours a day listening to music, and young adults usually also listen to it daily. This can be regarded as a very positive attribute as it is a fantastic way to take care of our mental health.

When someone is listening to music, dopamine - a feel-good chemical in the brain - is released, which lifts our mood. If the music that is being listened to is something the listener enjoys, then the amount of dopamine in the brain is 9 % higher.

This means that the person is feeling happier hence their stress levels are lowered. In 2016 the connection between music and anxiety was studied through people who have a fear of heights. The participants were split into two groups and placed in virtual reality rooms simulating a nine-floor elevator ride. One group listened to music, while the other one did not. Those listening to music recovered quicker from the stress than the ones who did not. It was discovered that listening to music can lower your blood pressure, your heartbeat, and the stress hormones in the body.

It may sound like a cliché, but music serves as an escape in undesired moments. People cope better with grief, depression, and other symptoms of stress disorders if they listen to music.

If a person feels depressed, they can consult a music therapy clinic. Music Therapy is an established health care profession, that uses musical interventions to reach therapeutic goals between a patient and a therapist. Many different methods are used as treatment. There are active ways to solve mental-health problems with music (e.g., singing, instrument exploration, songwriting, movement, digital music creation) but also more receptive ways (e.g., music listening, guided imagery with music, playlist creation, music conversations…). All together this can decrease anxiety, shift moods, and help find motivation.

A procedure that is used in Music Therapy is ‘’lyric analysis’’, which helps people talk about their problems to a therapist or anyone else when they have difficulties finding the words. This is how it is done:

1.Bring up lyrics of a song you like and that you identify yourself with

2.Listen to the song once

3.Then highlight words or sentences that mean something to you (or that you relate with)

4.Next listen to the song again, but now stop at the marked spaces and talk about why you relate with them

5.Listen to the song one last time and reflect on how it impacts on you

In general, song lyrics give everyone a better way of understanding their own situation from someone else’s perspective. That is why songs should always be addressed with curiosity and should be discussed. When people sing a song, they relate to, it can also help them express themselves. Listening to music can be used to quiet down someone’s mind. It can either be listened to intentionally or just in the background. Sometimes listening to music can even help decrease physical pain caused by illness. for example, someone who is being treated for cancer may find it easier to cope with their pain when listening to music.

Music helps humans figure out who they are. Depending on what music someone listens to, they will be influenced differently. It makes everyone think in certain ways, which influences someone’s personality. If people sing together, play in a band or in an orchestra, music can indirectly make someone relate and connect socially. The feeling of belonging to something larger than yourself is also shown to improve mental health.

Not only can listening to music improve mental conditions, but also learning and playing instruments can enhance mental health. While making music the entire brain is engaged, which creates potential for distraction (from depression, anxiety…) and pain reduction. The brain’s capacity and connections get better.

So, when something is stressing you, try listening to music you like!

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