Have you ever heard that music can affect your mood and thoughts?
I remember reading about a study conducted in the 1970s when Dorothy Retallack played certain tones and musical pieces in chambers where plants were growing. Of the plants that were provided rock music, some became stunted and others gangly, and most died within a few weeks. Plants that had more-soothing music playing in their chambers grew more robust and outlived the other plants.
If plants, being simple in comparison to the human mind and body, are affected by music in such a way, should we not wonder how our minds are affected by the music we listen to? It is not a stretch to say certain types of music can move us emotionally from one feeling to another.
We all have musical preferences, but it is important to note that not all types of music leave us in an improved mood once the music ends. Classical music has been used in forms of music therapy to improve mood and reduce stress.
Neil Nedley, M.D., an internal medicine physician with an emphasis in lifestyle medicine, encourages the practice of listening to classical music on a regular basis, at least one hour every two weeks.
Dr. Nedley’s research indicates there are 10 benefits to listening to classical music:
1. Increases interest in reading and learning
2. Strengthens brainpower
3. Encourages good lifestyle habits
4. Allows frontal lobe to filter information
5. Encourages fitness
6. Increases productivity
7. Strengthens creativity
8. Decreases irritability
9. Increases spiritual pursuits
10. Improves self-control
Classical music clearly can have an impact on the shaping of character, improvement of mood and quality of life. I can personally attest to my quality of life improving as I began to listen to classical music this past year.
Implementing positive music choices such as classical music can be an added benefit to your life — but what about other types of music? It is important to take careful thought in choosing your music wisely; perhaps it is just as important of a choice as are the foods you eat and the friends you spend time with. Be mindful of the music that enters your mind.
Some music is specifically designed to induce relaxed delta or theta rhythms within the brain by having sound recorded using two microphones and usually transmitted separately to the two ears of the listener. This can help reduce symptoms of anxiety when listened to without other distractions.
Music as a form of therapy is nothing new, but has recently become quite popular. Music therapy is defined as a systematic process of intervention wherein the therapist helps the client promote health by using music experiences and the relationships developing through them as dynamic forces of change.
Music experiences can occur either by listening to music or engaging in music by playing an instruments or singing. Even taking time to discuss, reflect or interpret themes and patterns within music can help a person understand the deeper meaning of his or her personal experiences.
How does music therapy work?
Therapists take these experiences and help a client relate this new meaning to a situation within the client’s life. Since each person has a basic level of musicality, music therapy is highly recommended for anyone suffering with a mood disorder or mental illness.
Music is a safe and socially acceptable way to express feelings with comfort. When a person creates music with others, social bonds are improved and support systems are built up. Motivation can be improved when the creation of music is involved. Music improves feelings of pleasure and meaningfulness of life and can help a person overcome troubling experiences in a positive way.
Listening to relaxing and calming music can influence calmer moods. Classical music, when combined with cognitive behavioral therapy, can lower anxiety and depression even more effectively than conventional therapy alone.
If you don’t have a stockpile of classical music or the funds to purchase a whole new genre of music, I encourage you to make a playlist on YouTube or find Pandora’s “Classical Relaxation Radio” station online and make it a regular part of your day.
Along with boosting your mood, classical music can be helpful to those suffering with anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and panic disorder. Taking 15 minutes every other day or so to relax on your favorite sofa or window seat while doing nothing else but enjoying the sounds of classical music can greatly help improve your mood and quality of life. I encourage you to try it!
Shelby Paulsen is a holistic health coach with a degree in psychology. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image: Prophet and Poet via Flickr; unedited, used under Creative Commons license.