When I’m home alone and feeling out of sorts, I find that it can sometimes be difficult to face my feelings alone. At times like this, it can be hard to connect with the people who I’m closest to and sadly, my therapist does not offer a 24 hour hotline, as much as I wish she did. So instead, I like to turn to music as my comforting outlet. I select a playlist that fits my mood, turn it to shuffle and it’s like an instant surge of emotional connection. It takes me to another place and I feel held by the soundwaves as they flow around me.
Music has a profound effect on the mind and body. Recently, research has shown that music can be healing in many different ways. To list a few, it is used in music therapy to help children with ADD develop better focus, to help cancer patients cope with their symptoms, to ward off depression, promote movement, and also to ease tension. These are just a few of the many ways that music can benefit our mental and physical health.
Music has long been known for its soothing and healing properties. For centuries, Native American drum circles have been transforming consciousness and rewiring the brain as a healing ceremonial process. I would even argue that this rewiring and transformative process increases the flow of information and energy in the brain, causing the body to generalize its effect on the immune system. It has also been claimed that comedy and laughter have similar effects on our immune systems, but that’s a topic for a different blog.
In Musicophilia, a book written by Oliver Sacks (a music loving neurologist) he claims that music has positive effects on the brain, especially in the elderly. Oliver considers music to be our best medicine. When we need to feel soothed and consoled, music often works more powerfully than drugs. If our threat detection brain structures are on high alert due to emotionally upsetting thoughts, music can quickly integrate our higher cortex and lead us to feeling more centered and grounded.
It was recently reported that scientists believe music to be a great pain reliever. A survey of 1,500 people experiencing chronic pain showed that about 41 percent found it easier to relax and feel better while listening to their favorite songs. In particular, they named Simon and Garfunkle’s song, “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” Fleetwood Mac’s song, “Albatross,” as well as Sarah McLachlan’s song, “Good Enough” to be the most soothing tracks.
What’s most interesting to me about these top soothing songs (as well as many others) is that they speak directly to our attachment needs: Are you there for me? Are you emotionally available to me in a resonant way? Are you able to see and hear and feel my reality and reflect it back to me in a compassionate, and unconditional manner; especially when growth brings on difficult changes that affect you while they invite me to address and integrate them.
Daniel Levithin, a neuroscientist, rock musician, and author of This is Your Brain on Music, discusses the elements that make music… well, music (rhythm, pitch, harmony, timbre, meter, loudness, and melody). These variables all work inside the brain to create our perception of music. Potentially, music activates every single network fiber of the brain that we are aware of. In fact, music works to increase and strengthen connections between each of the four lobes and between every sub-cortical structure. You want to a know a little secret? This is usually the implicit goal in therapy as well. Music, like therapy increases the flow of energy and information throughout your body and your brain. Some might even argue, your soul. This is a good thing! For a very moving demonstration of music’s profound effect on emotional energy, here is an example of a very open, undefended nervous system: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIsCs9_-LP8
So if you’re needing some relief or feeling out of sorts, here is a little dose of music to help you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9BLHRw_vieM