Music has been recognized as a way of relieving stress for thousands of years. The Bible even records a young David playing the lyre for King Saul to relieve the torment from a “harmful spirit.” Music has a healing effect that few can deny, and most individuals can point to a favorite song that lifts their spirits and moves their bodies to dancing, or that evokes powerful memories and emotions.
So, should music be a part of everyone’s personal wellness plan?
Studies support our instinctive convictions that music is simply good for us. Learning to play music in school results in better math performance and higher SAT scores. Listening to music has been shown to reduce the need for pain medication, lower stress levels, improve sleep, increase concentration, lower blood pressure, and even helps people heal faster after surgery.
Music played at a steady beat can stabilize heart rates in babies in a NICU, and songwriting with a music therapist can help individuals express themselves and gain a sense of self-worth. It can have a calming effect, and also help to process emotions.
Music should not be considered a replacement for medication when someone suffers from a serious medical or psychiatric illness, but it may be one of the best complimentary treatments available.
One of the most powerful uses of music is to tap into the memories of people who are living with dementia. The documentary Alive Inside demonstrated the power of music to reinvigorate people by unlocking memories through music, and the Alive Inside Coalition and Music and Memory Organization work to bring this awareness to the world and provide iPods and headphones to elderly patients. As patients listen to songs from times of their past, they are reconnected with memories hidden inside their brains, improving their mood and psychological state.
Go dance in the rain, sing in the shower, or grab your guitar and head to a local open mic night. Music is truly nourishment for your brain and soul. Not only can it lift our spirits, but it can bring us together as we celebrate and make music together. In the words of folk musician Pete Seeger, “I always believed that the right song at the right moment could change history.” So, find your song, sing it loud, and change the world!