We all have music in our soul – whether we play bass in a band, the violin in an orchestra or sing in the shower or the car, it is inside us and it has the power to affect our feelings and behaviour. It all reverts back to our tribal instincts and remains with us today. Music is very powerful and affects the way we think, feel and act. The rhythm can affect our bodies so that our heart rate and respirations follow that same pulse. Music can relax or energise, and certain pieces of music can affect us in deeply personal ways.
It is not scientifically proven why, but human beings are intrinsically wired to respond to music. We are affected both mentally and physically by rhythm, beats, and tunes by way of singing, moving, dancing and mood. We are naturally drawn to music and have been creating it throughout our history with all cultures and traditions having music as a core part of ceremony and existence. It is a part of who we are. So why not use such a powerful tool to improve our health?
How music travels to our brain is a complex process involving a whole host of channels and transmitters which decode and interpret the properties of the sounds and vibrations being heard.
Some are more adept in this – their brains are more finely tuned shall we say – such as musicians and composers, but we all possess the basic capacity to understand and experience music.
It has also been scientifically studied that music can have an effect on our mental performance, Mozart’s compositions being some of the tried and tested pieces that positively affected the outcome of IQ tests administered to students. How exactly this works is not entirely clear but that our cognitive performance is influenced is undeniable. Some scientists see some forms of music as an exercise which allows brain cells to ‘warm up’ and therefore be more prepared and available to process new information or challenges.
When it comes to our health we immediately turn to the negative effects modern life can have on us beings, such as stress and anxiety, which are becoming more and more commonplace. Music has the capability to relieve all of the above if utilised correctly. Throughout history we have used music to express our emotions, as well as a form of communication. By doing so we influence the feelings of those listening as they empathise and comprehend the message being sent by the sounds they are hearing. If music is delivered as a message it will in turn be received as one. Therefore soothing music may well have the desired effect of calming a person. Studies on patients about to undergo surgery, half of whom were permitted to listen to music (of their own choice) before, during and after their operations, the other half were not, showed that the tension experienced by those who did not receive the comfort of music was significantly higher than the other group; their blood pressure remained low, as did their adrenaline levels. The studies also proved that slow, relaxing music was best at keeping stress to a minimum as upbeat does exactly as you’d predict and increases the heartbeat.
Taking on this theory into our every day lives could help us to reduce the effect a stressful work environment for example could have on us. Listening to calming music, before during and after work (where possible) will help us from allowing the stress to take over. A ten minute meditation in your break time with some calming sounds will help to wash away the intensity of the day and give you the mindset to continue in a more present and relaxed mindset. Follow these guidelines to make the most out of your moment:
• Bring your attention to aspects of the music that you don’t normally notice: the rhythm, the different instruments or sounds at different times, the pauses, the tune and the background harmony, the varying loudness and speed of the music, the high and low notes, long and short.
• Notice how the music is affecting you as you listen: notice your breathing, your heart rate, your body’s rhythm.
• Bring your attention to the rest of your body, and notice the physical sensations as you listen to the music.
• Notice what emotions the music bring up, and how your mind is being affected (calming, energising, inspiring, more alert, relaxing).
• Listen to the music as a whole. Let it sweep you away and along, getting lost in that music. If any thoughts come into your mind, just notice them and allow them to be carried away on the music, then bring your attention back to the music.
Not only is music a handy go-to to relieve the stresses of the day, it can also work for the reverse. If we are feeling low, down-hearted or lethargic, a good dose of beats can really work to pick us up.
We naturally respond to the sounds but must also remember that lyrics have just as much of an effect. Hearing positive upbeat messages to a happy sounding tune will in turn pass through into our own psyche (as will negative messages). It may not always work, and being such individual and unique beings we all have different taste in music, but there is a mountain of material out there to sift through to find your personal positive playlist.
As well as music inspiring the mind it can also have a huge effect on our body. Dancing is an amazing way to relieve pressures and stresses as well as releasing endorphins and making us feel great. It isn’t always the first thing you imagine doing when you’re at home but blasting out some tunes and dancing around the room (like nobody’s watching of course) is one of the best ways to get the happy flowing. Not only this, but dancing and movement to music can help us to improve balance and posture. It is also fantastic for fitness. Exercise classes often incorporate music and require coordination, this will benefit us long term as well as giving us a boost for the day in question.
Music is also something that can be shared, it can link us to others, find new ways to communicate where we otherwise may not. It can behave as a language and open up channels in our lives that we may have missed if not for sharing a love of a certain style or type of music. Listening to music in a crowd is even more effective in that the communication between people while experiencing the same input creates an added level to the potential euphoria and endorphins we release. It is comparable to a religious ceremony and attending a sports match in its effect on the individuals attending, scientists suggest that regular attendance can promote longevity. So go and grab those concert tickets for your favourite band, it’s good for your health!
Music is a portal whereby we can get in touch with our emotional side and let go of the rational, it can provide therapeutic methods by which to live and thrive; taking up an instrument, for example, can be as effective as many therapies. When listening to music be aware of your mood and what you want to feel from it, as sometimes we can inspire a negative effect or emotion. Finely tune your playlists for particular moments, guided by emotion and atmosphere for example, so that you can get the most out of your music.
A beautiful, powerful, spiritual life tool was handed to us…use it wisely and it will change your life for the better!
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