Melodious Medicine

It’s widely accepted that music can help improve one’s mood or set the tone for an occasion. But music does far more than that; it has the power to heal. Yes, that’s right! Taking costly medications with potentially harmful side effects is not the only way to fix what ails you. Psychological, physiological, cognitive, and emotional problems can be alleviated or even cured by music. This is not a myth; music therapy is an intrinsic part of medicine in many countries like India, the UK, the US, and Australia, among others.

Music therapy has a history that dates back to the medieval period and during both World Wars, music was played to US veterans in hospitals. Doctors noticed that this form of therapy worked wonders for their patients, and this paved way for the founding of the National Association for Music Therapy (NAMT) in 1950. It represented a collaboration between music therapists who worked on psychological issues faced by veterans, as well as others in the public at large suffering from emotional or psychological problems. Later, it combined with another music therapy institute, and the resulting partnership is now known as the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA).

It is believed that music close to one’s culture or homeland is distinctly effective; for many of us, Indian classical music is considered highly therapeutic for physical, mental and spiritual well-being. It has its roots in the Gandharva veda that is part of the Samaveda, which is also known as the Veda of music.

Here are a few ways you can benefit from music therapy – inside and out.

Music therapy has helped people with dementia, Alzheimer’s and other mental disorders. It can help reduce aggression and restless behaviour, and improve the mood of sufferers. Some research even suggests that music therapy reduces the likelihood of heart or brain diseases in dementia patients.

Enhanced sleep quality- People suffering from insomnia often feel tired and depressed, and can have problems concentrating; the result is inefficiency or worse in the workplace or school. Music can be a powerful tool to improve the quality and duration of your sleep, and can be especially effective when it comes to the elderly. In some cases, music therapy can be used as a mild sedative to help children sleep while they are undergoing EEG testing, or if they have difficulty sleeping in general.

Infant growth- Studies have shown that if soothing melodies are played during the late pregnancy months, the newborn will become more receptive to music. Moreover, music makes for more relaxed and less irritable infants. Music therapies are also used to keep pre-term newborns healthy; music is thought to boost feeding rates and contribute to optimal weight gain. Following the therapy, children tend to sleep more soundly and with fewer heartbeats per minute.

Mood elevation- Mood disorders are an extremely common, but often overlooked issue. People suffering from depression have a different outlook towards life – at times, everything seems lifeless and dark. If persistent, it can seriously impact one’s physical health, too. But along with certain antidepressant medications, music has been found to be a positive form of treatment. People going through a rough patch or recuperating from a major surgery are often recommended music therapies, as it can be an effective method of reducing heart rate and blood pressure, and in turn relieving signs of depression.

Improves cognitive functions- Elderly people suffering from dementia deficits in understanding or perspective abilities have shown improvement with music therapy. Dementia affects decision-making, judgment, memory, logic, and oral communication, and can also bring about changes in the personality and behaviour of a person.

As for day-to-day life, people listen to music while reading, cooking, working out and during other regular activities; it’s clear that our minds and bodies respond to music in very unique ways. Our bodies groove to the rhythm of music without even trying. Likewise, our emotions can shift from sad to happy, or grumpy to cheerful, just by listening to music. So turn up the tunes – they’ll put a spring in your step and a smile on your face!

- Sneha