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14 Science-Backed Benefits Of Music Therapy and Sound Healing │How Sound Healing Can Help Increase Your Energy

14 Science-Backed Benefits Of Music Therapy and Sound Healing │How Sound Healing Can Help Increase Your EnergyWhat Is Music Therapy And Sound Healing?

Think about your favorite song. We all have at least one, and probably numerous ones that bring up good memories at the core of our heart, move us on the inside, and maybe even get our body physically moving.

It’s no secret that music can be a powerful force in our lives. Cultures dating back to the beginning of time have used music across history for spiritual purposes, to connect and communicate with each other, and for socialization.

More recently, the use of music has built upon these foundations to address many diseases and diagnosis. Research is revealing benefits beyond your imagination and is becoming a staple therapeutic approach to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals.

According to the American Music Therapy Association, music therapy is “the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.[1]

After evaluation by a music therapist, a program that may include creating, singing, dancing, or just even listening to music is designed to suit the preferences, strengths, and needs of each client. The therapeutic context of music therapy can touch many aspects of clients’ lives and is applied for many reasons, such as:

  • Expression of both positive and negative thoughts, feelings, and emotions (sadness, grief, frustration, loneliness, joy, gratitude, etc.)
  • Development of sensory functions like touch, sight, hearing, etc.
  • Learning new skills and developing new hobbies
  • Developing compensatory functional skills to work around neurologic impairments[2]
  • Physical rehabilitation through movement
  • Providing emotional support for individuals and their loved ones
  • Developing creativity and keeping the brain strong

With all these uses, it’s no wonder that music therapy and sound healing has the potential to impact almost every area of your life (physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, etc.). Moreover, by touching every area of your life in a positive manner, sound healing is a phenomenal way of maximizing quality of life and energy levels while minimizing fatigue.

 

How Music Therapy And Sound Healing Works

When we listen to, play, or sing music, there are a ton of physical changes that are taking place in your brain and other structures of your body. Literally, the music changes you from the inside. A couple of the notable ways that music therapy and sound healing can improve your health are:

  • Changing patterns of brain activity
  • Influencing the release of neurotransmitters and other hormones
  • Increasing the number of immune-boosting cells

Here’s a little bit deeper look into each of these changes in the body.

 

Sound Healing Changes Patterns Of Brain Activity

Changing Patterns of Brain Activity - Music therapyWhen we think of music, you most likely think about using your ears to hear the rhythm and noise. However, it’s not only the auditory parts of your brain that are active. Research consistently shows that brain regions involved in movement, attention, planning and memory consistently are activated with music. The cool thing is that the activity of our brain does everything from controlling our emotions, impacting important organs in our bodies, and even leads to develop habits.

The term neuroplasticity revolves around the concept that “neurons that fire together wire together.” In other words, when you regularly stimulate certain neural pathways and brain regions, you encourage those neural pathways to grow stronger — much like exercising a muscle makes it stronger. Here are a few of the ways that brain activity has been shown to be affected with music:

  • Tracer uptake, measuring brain activity, was in the frontal, hippocampal, and cerebellar regions of the brain was 34% higher after 5 weeks of music therapy in a group of patients suffering from unresponsive wakefulness syndrome compared to the control group.[3]
  • Presenting subjects with their most favorite songs increase “chill intensity” correlated with greater cerebral blood flow to brain regions thought to be involved in reward and emotion (insula, orbitofrontal cortex, the ventral medial prefrontal cortex, and the ventral striatum), with subsequent decreases in blood flow to limbic system such as the amygdala and the hippocampus (which are more thought to be involved in memory formation and are implicated in anxiety and depression).[4]
  • Researchers found that neural activity in a part of the brain called the nucleus acumbens during listening to a new piece of music was the best predictor of the money listeners were willing to spend on buying the song.[5]
  • Music changes activity in the brainstem, which impacts markers including heart rate, pulse, blood pressure, body temperature, skin conductance, and muscle tension.[6] Stimulating music produces increases in cardiovascular markers, whereas relaxing music produces decreases these measures.[7] [8]
  • Using functional MRI’s, researchers found that the processing of music shares common regions of the brain (such as Broca’s area) as important language centers.[9]

These are just some of the examples of changes in the brain Further discussion of relevant changes may be made later in the article when discussing specific beneficial aspects of sound healing.

 

Sound Healing Influences The Release Of Neurotransmitters And Other Hormones

Thanks to certain mood-altering chemicals, music has a powerful effect on our energy levels and emotions. It can make you happy, energized, sad, or even relaxed. Research has implicated several important neurotransmitters and hormones to be involved in the regulation of our states of being. In particular:[10]

  • Dopamine: This hormone is typically associated with pleasure, and often is known as the ‘feel good’ chemical. When you listen to a song you like, or you play an instrument that you enjoy, your body releases extra dopamine, helping us to feel good and also encourage us to further participate in those activities that provide that feeling (key for addictions).
  • Endorphins: Endorphins are another hormone released into the body to provide a sense of joy and elation. Most often, you will hear these chemicals being associated with exercise and the “runners high,” but music also has the ability to increase secretion of the mood-boosting hormones. Beyond being happy, endorphins may help to be a great pain reliever, and have shown to play a role in pain management. Just like painkillers like morphine, endorphins block the pain receptors in our body from receiving incoming messages of discomfort.
  • Cortisol: When you listen to music, the body’s output of cortisol is reduced and overall levels decline throughout the body. This is a sign of how sound healing is reducing stress and anxiety at the physiological level, which may be beneficial in a large number of ways for the body.

 

Sound Healing Increases The Number Of Immune-Boosting Cells

In a meta-analysis of over 400 studies, lead researcher Daniel Levitin, Ph.D., found that listening to and playing music increase the body’s production of the antibody immunoglobulin A and other important bodies such as interleukins, lymphocytes, and natural killer cells.[11]

These are the body’s defense mechanisms that fight invading viruses and enhance the immune system’s usefulness in keeping you healthy and help you to recover faster when you are sick.

 

Science-Backed Benefits Of Music Therapy And Sound Healing  

Literally anybody…children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly can be positively impacted by music therapy. Additionally, as you will see below, there are a wide-range of benefits that have been proven to possibly be obtained with sound healing.

 

#1 Music Therapy Can Improve Your Mood

Music Therapy Can Improve Your MoodThe National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI) designates music as an effective way to regulate mood. They note that “the rhythmic and repetitive aspects of music engages the neocortex of our brain, resulting in calming us and reducing impulsivity”.[12]

Research in a wide variety of patient populations has shown that sound healing truly is an effective method for improving mood. Prior research findings include:

  • Males who participated in a 15-session song-singing program saw positive effects on their mood state. In the moment, the participants experienced decreases in “sadness, anger, fear, and fatigue”. Additionally, they saw “increased feelings of happiness and decreased feelings of sadness, fear, confusion, tension and fatigue in the long-term”, despite the characteristics of the songs chosen for therapy to be described as those evoking feelings of sadness.[13]
  • A 2009 study investigated the relationship between changes in mood and behavior of ten patients who had a stroke or traumatic brain injury and received music therapy sessions.[14] The participants were separated into varying numbers of music therapy sessions in addition to standard rehabilitation. In addition, some received group music therapy only while others were seen in both group and individual music therapy sessions. Results showed that “the number of music therapy sessions influencing several behavioral measures, with group sessions appearing to affect social interaction and individual sessions positively affecting motivation for treatment”. Increases in the number of sessions was also related to family members’ assessment of improvement in patients’ moods in the previous 24 hours.[15]
  • Thirteen weeks of guided imagery and music in healthy adults reduced measured total mood disturbances, as well as lowered markers of depression, fatigue, cortisol level by the end of the intervention.[16]
  • Mean scores on the depression self-rating index and the behavior rating index for grieving children in the school environment who participated in a music therapy-based were significantly lowered after the 8 sessions of therapy.[17]
  • A 2015 review of music therapy treatment for patients with neurologic diseases (such as stroke, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease) found music-based to be a valid mood enhancer, “especially in the reduction of the depressive and anxiety’s component, and in the improvement of the emotional expression, communication and interpersonal skills, self-esteem and quality of life”.[18] They also suggest that the rehabilitative process of regaining motor area functioning and regulation can be positively affected by changes in mood.

Having a bad day? The NAMI suggests that music can be used to alter mood states by playing music to match your current mood and then slowly shifting to a more positive or calm state.[19] When we shift into a better mood, we will most often have more energy, be less fatigued, and be better able to show up in this world.

 

#2 Music Therapy Can Help Improve Symptoms of Autism

Individuals impacted with the autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) often have significant limitations in conventional forms of verbal and non‐verbal communication. It has been proposed that the structure and predictability found in music help to develop tolerance, flexibility and social engagement to help enhance interpersonal responses and communication.[20]

A 2006 review found that both randomized controlled trials and case studies using music therapy improved “communicative behavior, language development, emotional responsiveness, attention span and behavioral control”.[21]

Further research in 2008 demonstrated that 24 sessions over the course of 8 months was more effective than sessions playing with conventional toys in improving attention behaviors and non-verbal social communication skills in children.[22]

A similar study comparing improvisational music therapy and toy play sessions released a year later showed that “Improvisational music therapy produced markedly more and longer events of `joy’, `emotional synchronicity’ and `initiation of engagement’ behaviors in the children than toy play sessions”. In addition, positive responses to the therapist’s demands were more frequent in the music therapy sessions, whereas more “no responses” to the therapist were seen in the toy play sessions.[23]

In sum, as noted in a 2014 review paper, music therapy may help children with ASD to improve their skills in:[24]

  • Advancing skills in social interaction, verbal communication, initiating behavior, and social-emotional reciprocity.
  • Improving non-verbal communication skills within the therapy context.
  • Increasing social adaptation skills and enhancing the quality of parent-child relationships.

Music Therapy Sound healing and Autism

 

#3 Music Therapy Can Fight Brain Injuries

Brain injuries can result in “impairments in motor function, language, cognition, sensory processing and emotional disturbances”, impacting the quality of life of individuals with these injuries. Luckily for researchers, these people also represent ideal subjects to test the efficacy of music therapy on improving brain functioning.[25]

  • A meta-analysis of seven studies involving patients with acute brain injuries found that rhythmic auditory stimulation may be beneficial for improving gait parameters in stroke patients, including gait velocity, cadence, stride length and gait symmetry.[26] The researchers noted that there was insufficient data to examine the effect of music therapy on other outcomes.
  • Using patients with traumatic brain injuries (TBI), a 2009 study investigated the immediate effects of neurologic music therapy on cognitive functioning and emotional adjustment.[27] The subjects went through four 30-minute treatment sessions during which participants focused on one aspect of rehabilitation (attention, memory, executive function, or emotional adjustment). The group receiving treatment participants showed “improvement in executive function and overall emotional adjustment, and lessening of depression, sensation seeking, and anxiety versus the control participants (who just rested during the 30-minute period) who improved in emotional adjustment and lessening of hostility, but showed decreases in measures of memory, positive affect, and sensation seeking”.[28]
  • Rehabilitation with music therapy after traumatic brain injury or stroke resulted in improvements in social interaction, participation in therapy, and even mood compared to the group who went through rehabilitation without the music therapy in eighteen patients in a study from 2000.[29]
  • A review paper noted music therapy as a promising intervention for promoting arousal from coma following an acquired brain injury.[30]
  • Active music therapy singing or playing musical instruments resulted in significant improvements in severely brain injured patient’s initiative and social collaboration, with reductions in agitation being noted.[31]

 

#4 Music Therapy Can Help Treat Depression

Music Therapy Can Help Treat DepressionDepression is a serious threat to the mental health of our society. According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, there are some saddening statistics to report from 2016, an estimated 16.2 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode. This number represented 6.7% of all U.S. adults.[32]

Depression tends to cause changes in mood, heighten anxiety and increase loss of interest and pleasure. Music therapy has been proposed as an alternative or adjunctive therapy for those who suffer with depression. Highlights of previous research in the area are supportive. For example:

  • A 2015 meta-analysis of music therapy in patients impacted by neurologic dieseases suggested that “music can activate limbic and paralimbic structures, such as the amygdala, the hippocampus, the nucleus accumbens, etc. that function abnormally in patients with a high depressive component”.[33]
  • 8 weeks of music therapy (for 50 minutes each day) resulted in less depressive symptoms than a group receiving cognitive behavior psychotherapy treatment.[34]
  • Adolescents and adults struggling with substance abuse participating in 12 sessions of music therapy in addition to normal treatment resulted in less depression (self-reported) as well as greater improvements in psychologist-rated depression levels.[35]
  • Thirteen patients with traumatic brain injury took part in individual, weekly, 1-hour music therapy session for 20 weeks in a study released in 2009.[36] Within each session, half of the time was devoted to listening to music (receptive sound healing) and the other half to playing an instrument (active music therapy). Mood was significantly improved (from 4.6 to 2.6 on the face scale) from the beginning of the study. In addition, researchers found that the music therapy also led to a significant reduction in anxiety and depression starting about halfway through the study to the end of the intervention. [37].
  • Listening for an hour per day to self-selected music via an mp3 player over the course of a roughly two-week post-operative stay after breast removal in breast cancer patients resulted in both lower levels of depression and shorter duration of stay compared to a control group that did not receive the music intervention.[38].
  • Music therapy was effective in reducing anxiety and depression in patients undergoing hemodialysis treatment. [39]

These examples are consistent with recent review papers from 2015 and 2017 that agree that sound healing seems to “reduce depressive symptoms and anxiety and helps to improve functioning and quality of life (maintaining involvement in job, activities, and relationships)” of those diagnosed with depression. [40] [41]. In addition, it seems likely that music therapy and sound healing can be beneficial in reducing markers of depression in individuals going through medical treatment.

By overcoming depression and depressive tendencies, your life will most likely have a brighter perspective and bring a new sense of energy into your days.

 

#5 Music Therapy Can Enhance Fetal Development

Twinkle, twinkle, little star…

Music therapy and sound healing can help fetal development (1)One of the hallmark lullabies that is a staple of nearly every child’s early days, weeks, and months is a perfect example of how music is intertwined in our lives from birth to death.

We’ve talked about numerous benefits of music therapy to the health of a living adult. When in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), it has been demonstrated that providing parents with culturally based, self‐selected, personalized musical songs can can instill a potent means of support and allow for expression of fear or anxiety related to the birth of a child[42]. However, what is good for the parent is also very good for the infant as well.

About halfway through the pregnancy term, neonates are able to start to hear sounds inside the womb. Until birth, the vital sounds of the placenta provide a rhythmic beat that nurtures them and encourages growth. When they are born, infants enter into to an acoustically void environment that may be suboptimal.  However, recent research shows that attention to sound and music played within the environment of a growing infant is instrumental to securing conditions that enhance health. For instance:

  • The application of various forms of live musical interventions three times per week over the course of two weeks lowered infant heart rates, enhanced sucking behavior, improved sleep patterns, and increased calorie intake in over 200 premature infants with respiratory distress syndrome, clinical sepsis, and/or who were small for gestational age. In addition, these interventions reduced the stress of the parents and enhanced the bonding between the two[43].
  • Listening to lullabies had a positive effect on their transition period to oral feeding, their sucking success and vital signs (peak heart rate and oxygen saturation) in premature infants.[44]
  • Infants exposed to three 45-minute live harp sessions had the greatest weight gain during the study (average gain of 19.1 grams per day) versus others moved to a quiet room for that period of time (17.2 grams per day), and in usual care infants left in the nursery (13.3 grams per day)[45].
  • Compared with recorded music or no music therapy, live music therapy was “associated with a reduced heart rate and a deeper sleep at 30 minutes after therapy in stable preterm infants”[46]
  • During a 10-minute recovery following a medically necessary but painful heel stick procedure, heart rate and crying significantly decreased in infants exposed to music, but not in unexposed infants[47]. This may be a way to improve pain management and stress in premature infants during these intense procedures.
  • A review paper determined music therapy to be an effective means of managing pain and behavior during painful procedures like the heel stick and circumcision.[48]

While the majority of the research has been done on pre-term infants, it is likely that the same effects of music would be seen in healthy neonates. As a result, this could encourage healthy rates of growth, development, and nourishment to ensure that the first few weeks to months of an individual’s life are maximized for a healthy future.

 

#6 Music Therapy Can Improve Your Pain Management

Music Therapy Can Improve Your Pain ManagementMany people take medications and use other alternative therapies to manage chronic and acute bouts of pain that can severely lower quality of life. As effective as these remedies are, they can often come with negative consequences like addiction and/or a list of side-effects and interactions with other prescriptions or lifestyle factors.

However, you can’t go wrong with getting hooked on music. Research has now been showing that music therapy has the potential to be a natural source of pain relief. For instance:

  • Listening to music during bed rest after open-heart surgery increased levels of oxytocin (an important natural pain-reducing hormone) and improved subjective relaxation levels.[49]
  • 20 minutes per day of listening to music was an effective intervention to lower osteoarthritis pain scores on the Pain Rating Index and Visual Analogue Scales in a sample of elderly patients[50].
  • A review of music interventions for cancer patients noted music therapy to have moderate pain-reducing effects[51].
  • No matter what they participants listened to during a 20 minute cycling time-trial (fast upbeat music, classical music or self-selected music) peripheral, central, and overall ratings of perceived exertion were reduced when compared with the time with no music[52].

There are a few plausible mechanisms that can explain why music can help to relieve pain and be an effective analgesic. Some of the more popular theories are[53]:

  • Redirecting attention
  • Evoking of pleasurable emotional states
  • Stimulation of physiological pain and stress reduction mechanisms
  • Providing a soothing and familiar world into which the patient can escape

Regardless of why it works, if music has the ability to reduce your pain, it’s likely that it would result in an improvement of quality of life. Pain tends to drain our energy and ability to do basic life functions. Without it, we are free to live life as we want and not be held back by nagging signals from our body that we are hurt.

 

#7 Music Therapy Can Help Your Heart

Music Therapy Can Help Your HeartJust like the beat of music, your body has an internal beat. That beat comes from your heart and is the sign of you being a living being. What’s cool about music is that it can have an internal effect on the beating of arguably the most important organ in your body.

For example, Bernardi and colleagues showed the effect of different types of music[54]. Slow tempo, meditative music “produced a relaxing effect with a reduction in heart rate, blood pressure, and ventilation rate”. Increasing the tempo of the music produced an increase in breathing rate, blood pressure and heart rate, probably due to sympathetic activation.

Furthermore, more research shows how music can play a role on our cardiovascular health.

  • Heart rate variability (a marker of the relaxing parasympathetic nervous system activity) was increased (showing increased parasympathetic activity) in undergraduate students exposed to 20 minutes of sound healing[55].
  • Patients who listened to a CD for 30 minutes pre-operatively and post-operatively had lower heart rates, blood pressure and pain after a laprascopic infertility procedure[56].
  • Relaxing music in the face of a cognitive stressor task involving preparation for an oral presentation protected subjects from significant increases in subjective anxiety, heart rate, and systolic blood pressure in male and female undergraduate students (compared to increases in the control group)[57].

This line of research shows that by listening to certain kinds of music, we can lower our heart rate and blood pressure, which is a long-term strategy for reduced stress and improved cardiovascular health.

In addition, if you need a quick boost of energy, turn up the tunes on a fast paced, upbeat song that can temporarily give you the spark you need.

14 top benefits of music therapy and sound healing

 

#8 Music Therapy Can Enhance Social Connection

Music therapy and sound healing can strengthen social connectionFor years, music has been a tool to create community and culture in populations across the world. Whether it was the pounding of drums during battles, pomp performances during celebrations, or jazz tunes during hard times, music has been a uniting factor throughout history.

Think about many of our daily activities…. walking, talking, clapping, dancing, tapping, etc). While they are all performed by different parts of our bodies, they all share a common theme of being tied to rhythm. When these rhythmic activities are performed by groups of people they “tend to become synchronized, reflecting social coordination which leads to fostering of interpersonal trust and bonding[58].

Physiologically, oxytocin, vasopressin, and dopamine are necessary components for the establishment of social bonds, whereas endogenous opioids (like endorphins) contribute to feelings of ‘dependence’ that are necessary for humans to maintain long-lasting social relationships[59].

The two most important neurotransmitters believed to underlie the connection between music and social connection are oxytocin and vasopressin. Thus far to date, the majority of the research has looked at oxytocin in relation to music therapy. Studies have shown[60]:

  • Oxytocin receptor infant knockout mice “engaged in fewer vocalizations and show marked social deficits and higher stress levels”[61].
  • Children comforted solely by their mother’s voice had very comparable levels of oxytocin and return to baseline of the biological marker of stress cortisol in response to a stressor as those receiving physical, vocal and non-verbal contact[62].
  • Oxytocin levels increased significantly in both professional and amateur singers after a single 30-minute singing lesson[63].
  • Listening to soothing, soft, relaxing music for 30 minutes the day after open coronary artery bypass grafting and/or aortic valve replacement surgery increased levels of oxytocin significantly in contrast to the control group for which the trend over time was negative (lowered levels)[64].

While the underlying mechanism tying music and enhanced social connection isn’t well known, we have known for years that music can be a powerful uniting factor between individuals across all cultures.

 

#9 Music Therapy Can Help To Reduce Stress And Anxiety

Music Therapy Can Help to Reduce Stress and AnxietyWe live in a society swimming in stress and anxiety. Whatever your worry…financial fears, professional concerns, family issues, etc., our perception of life’s events tends to cause us to live in chronic stress and anxiety.

Our biological stress response is a mesh of neuroendocrine, autonomic, metabolic, and immune system activity that impacts our physiology. There are many mechanisms by which music can decrease our bodies response to stressful and anxiety provoking situations[65]:

  • As was referenced earlier on in the article, music has a calming effect on your nervous system by turning up the parasympathetic activity marked by higher heart rate variability, as well as lower heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Music can reduce elevations of hormones such as cortisol, corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH), and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), in addition to secretions of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.

A large number of studies have shown music to be a great tool at lowering stress levels and reducing anxiety in a variety of populations. For instance:

  • 40 minutes of a group-based music intervention in a classroom before a examination effectively decreased exam anxiety and state anxiety, as well as reduced pulse rate in a group of nursing students[66]. Randomized crossover trial studying the effect of music on examination anxiety.
  • Music in the major chord (Mozart’s Allegro con spirito) which was proposed to evoke happiness reduced stress and cortisol level more than minor chord music (Beethoven’s fur Elise), which was proposed to induce sadness[67].
  • Self-reported preference of certain music in being effective in stress reduction indicate a positive report of music in reducing work stress for air traffic controllers[68].
  • Listening to “relaxing music” (slow tempo, low pitch, and no lyrics) prevented significant increases in subjective anxiety, heart rate, and systolic blood pressure in healthy subjects[69].
  • 6 biweekly sessions of the Guided imagery and Music (GIM) method using classical music and imagery was found to reduce cortisol in healthy subjects[70].
  • Serum cortisol levels were significantly decreased in comparison to control patients in post-operative cardiac surgery and hernia repair patients who listened passively to researcher-selected relaxing music after surgery[71] [72].

While stress can be seen as a good thing in the short-term, prolonged activation of these systems has detrimental consequences for health (such as decreased immunity and development of chronic diseases). In addition, chronic stress tends to drain our energy levels and make us fatigued.

By listening to music and living a less stressful life, you can enjoy more vitality and have better health. Bump up those beats and lower the stress in your life!

 

#10 Music Therapy Can Improve Physical Function Capacity

Tapping your foot, getting up to dance, or even working out to your favorite tunes all are great examples of how music interacts with movement. There is just a natural part of us that wants to move as we hear the words and rhythms of songs and music.

Music seems to be able to not only get us to move our bodies, but improve our bodies ability to move as well. One such example comes from people with Parkinson’s disease. Those affected by these diseases fall victim to movement troubles such as slowed movements, tremors, rigidity, and postural instability.

Something as simple as walking may be a challenge for those who suffer from this ailment. A recent thesis paper found that “walking performance and motor symptom severity were significantly improved amongst people living with PD after 13-week music-accompanied walking program”[73]. Interestingly, the more familiar and enjoyable participants rated the music, the better their improvements seemed to be.

Furthermore, complex movement like dancing to music is even more of a challenge for these patients. A review of the impact of different dance genres on mobility and quality of life found dance (with music) to be “safe and feasible for people with mild to moderately severe Parkinson’s, with beneficial effects on walking, freezing of gait, and health related quality of life[74].

Additionally, there is more evidence in a variety of populations that shows how music works to improve physical functioning:

  • Military veterans who participated in conventional physical therapy gait training with varying amounts of rhythmic auditory stimulation throughout the 30 treatment sessions improved their one-limb stance, cadence, velocity, stride-length, and posture in comparison than control participants[75]. Interestingly, some of the markers (such as one-limb stance and cadence) were only improved with earlier implementations the intervention.
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation to 15 healthy individuals prior to a rhythmic–auditory tapping task (10-stimulus auditory sequence lasting 5 seconds) improved motor control and motor output[76].
  • Three weeks of rhythmic auditory stimulation treatment was superior to neurodevelopmental therapy/Bobath- based training (another therapy method) in terms of improving gait velocity, stride length, cadence, and symmetry in patients who had suffered a hemiparetic stroke (affecting one side of the body)[77].

The physiological changes that come from listening and moving with music seem to have beneficial effects on our overall ability to move. If we are able to physically move better, it’s likely that we will have more energy. When do you tend to have the least amount of energy? Usually, it’s when you’ve been lounging around on the couch all day. On the other hand, you have a ton of vibrancy right after your workouts.

Movement creates energy and improves movement capacity!

 

#11 Music Therapy Can Fight Parkinson’s And Alzheimer’s Diseases

Two of the most common degenerative brain diseases that affect individuals worldwide are Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s Diseases. The most frequent symptoms of both diseases are cognitive decline, anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbances[78]. However, there are a wide range of quality of life sucking, debilitating consequences to these diseases. Emerging evidence suggests that music therapy is an effective treatment modality for those who suffer with these diseases.

For example, three months of weekly sessions of music therapy (group choral singing, voice exercises, rhythmic and free body movements) combined with traditional physical therapy (stretching exercises, specific motor tasks, and strategies to improve balance and gait) improved measures for slowed movements, motor improvement, control of emotional functions, improvements in activities of daily living, and improved overall quality of life[79].

In addition, another symptom of Parkinson’s disease is impairments in speech production. 20 hour-long group music therapy sessions resulted in “significant improvements in singing quality and voice range, coupled with the maintenance of speaking quality” in ten patients diagnosed with the ailment[80].

For those who suffer from these terrible diseases, life can be stolen. Energy levels are low, physical function is hampered, and cognitive abilities decline. The potential for something as readily available as music to be an effective therapeutic method offers promising hope to partly restore quality of life in those affected by such debilitating conditions.

 

#12 Music Therapy Can Reduce Symptoms Of Psychological Disorders

Just as important as our physical health is, our mental health is just important. We have covered how music therapy can help to improve mood and emotions as well as reduce stress and anxiety earlier on in this article. However, research also shows that sound healing may be a beneficial therapeutic method for those diagnosed with psychological disorders. For example:

  • A study of investigating the efficacy of 10-weeks of group music therapy for patients who did not respond to cognitive behavioral therapy on PTSD symptoms and depression found significant reductions in severity of PTSD symptoms and marginally significant decreases in markers of depression[81].
  • A weekly, 12 session music therapy using elements of traditional South Korean Nanta music (mainly non-verbal performance using improvised instruments, such as cutting boards, water canisters and kitchen knives) resulted in significant improvements in psychiatric symptoms and slight improvement in interpersonal relationships in patients diagnosed with Schizophrenia[82].

Just as with using music as a therapeutic method for degenerative diseases, sound healing offers a ray of hope to improve quality of life and reduced negative symptoms associated with the wide number of psychiatric conditions that are popping up among individuals worldwide.

 

#13 Music Therapy Can Improve Self-Expression & Communication

The ability to express your thoughts through words, speech, and non-verbal communication is an essential component of developing and maintaining healthy relationships, as well as living an overall productive life. Without the ability to communicate, you may be pre-disposed to social isolation, be less successful in work, etc.

Multiple studies have shown that sound healing can be an efficacious method of improving self-expression and communication. Most of the research has been done in populations who have difficulty with basic communication skills and functions. For example:

  • Intonation is a term used to describe the variability in pitch within a spoken phrase, which plays an important role in conveying mood, emotions, thoughts and experiences [83]. In one study, subjects with traumatic brain injuries sang three self-selected songs for 15 sessions. After the intervention, improvements in emotional intonation were seen with additional improvements in voice range [84]. This suggests that music therapy can enhance or help regain the ability to inotate and ultimately communicate.
  • Another study in stroke patients with mixed dysarthria found that 12, 30-minute accent-based music speech sessions improved markers of speech motor coordination including “respiration, phonation, articulation, resonance, and prosody of patients with dysarthria”, suggesting utilization of a music speech protocol may be an effective long-term treatment for patients with dysarthria[85].
  • A review paper from 2012 found that different techniques emphasizing rhythm, pitch, memory, and vocal/oral motor components dealing with different symptoms were found to be effective for patients “who have difficulty producing meaningful words, phrases, and sentences in strengthening breathing and vocal ability, improving articulation and prosody of speech, and increasing verbal and nonverbal communicative behaviors”[86].
  • For those with physical handicaps, receptive sound healing has been used to help patients improve their response through verbal and non-verbal feedback to changing music stimuli to achieve a “flow experience”[87].
  • Finally, a 2015 meta-analysis suggests that “music can engage several social functions, can increase communication and social cohesion and can promote empathetic relationships, especially in the active approaches”[88].

 

#14 Music Therapy Can Help You Stay Well

Music therapy and sound healing can help you stay wellOur immune system is our bodies line of defense against infection and includes cells and proteins such as natural killer cells, phagocytes, leukocytes, and T-cells that provide both general and specific responses to incoming pathogens[89].

Research suggests that “stress and aging have detrimental effects on both immunesystem responses, leading to a weakening of defenses against new pathogens and increases in systemic inflammation”[90].

However, little attention has been devoted to psychosocial and lifestyle factors may potentially improve immune system functioning[91]. Positive aspects of life such as optimism, humor, and laughter have been shown to potentially alleviate the negative effects of age and stress[92] [93] [94]; leading to the theory that music (which we have shown to improve mood and reduces stress) may be a tool to improve immune function[95]. To date, there is some literature the analyzes the connection:

  • In one study, a single session of group drumming resulted in improved 5-DHA-to-cortisol ratios (which suggests enhanced immune functioning and a buffering of the stress response), increased natural killer cell activity[96].
  • Another study utilizing a hour long group drumming session found decreases in gene expression of the stress-induced cytokines interleukin-10 (IL-10), and interferon-g. Additionally, natural killer cell activity was reduced in individuals with high pre-session levels, whereas the activity of these cells was increased for those with low pre-session values[97].
  • Finally, a third study utilizing a single group drumming resulted in significant increases in total number of lymphocytes (including natural killer cells), T cells, CD4+ T cells, memory T cells, and production of interferon-g and interleukin-6 (IL-6, a cytokine with both pro- and anti-inflammatory properties) in older adults[98]. Interestingly, the same style session did not result in any significant changes in younger adults.
  • Saliva samples of Immunoglobulin-A (a first line of defense against bacterial and viral infections and a reliable marker of the functional status of the entire mucosal immune system) taken from members of a professional chorale signing Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis showed increases of 150% during rehearsals and 240% during the performance[99].
  • Listening to researcher selected music was associated with increased serum Immunoglobulin A levels compared to baseline levels and a visualization condition, regardless of if the music was designed to evoke happiness or sadness[100].

When we are sick, whether it is with a major illness or a minor bug, we don’t have optimal energy levels. Our vitality gets drained by our body focusing on fighting whatever we are facing and pushing resources towards getting better. As a result, fatigue flies in fast.

If music therapy offers protection against illness by enhancing our immunity, it stands as a potential way to ensure that we keep our energy levels high and consistent across the days, weeks, months, and years.

 

Bringing Sound Healing And Music Therapy To You

It’s unlikely that you will go out and hire a credentialed music therapist after reading this article. However, I hope that it has opened your mind to an alternative, unique therapeutic and beneficial tool to improve your physical, emotional, cognitive, and social health.

With that being said, I’d like to provide a list of ideas of incorporating sound healing into your own life:

  • Rocking out to your favorite songs using an internet radio station like Spotify or Pandora
  • Joining a choir or band
  • Having a 30-minute dance session instead of doing a traditional cardio activity like jogging on a treadmill
  • Learning to play a new instrument
  • Journaling and writing lyrics
  • Regularly practicing playing an instrument
  • Singing in the shower
  • Donating your time and playing musical pieces at hospitals or nursing homes

(My personal favorite music/sound therapy album is from sound healer Michael Tyrrell of Whole Tones, which induces the most profound state of tranquility and vibrant energy. You can get it here.)

LET THE MUSIC FLOW THROUGH YOUR BODY

Whatever genre of music you like, turn up the tunes to improve your health, enhance your energy, and bring vitality to your life!

If you want to learn more about music therapy and sound healing, check out the podcast I did with Michael Tyrrell on Wholetones and how they help heal fatigue and stress

 

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