We’re told that in the western world today the majority of people suffer from some degree of stress or other. If this is so, no wonder finding solutions to stress is a growth industry. Thankfully, many of these solutions are highly effective, and none more so than music therapy. Stress relief in both adults and children – even in some pets! – has been greatly enhanced by music therapy.
The beneficial effects of music therapy go way back in folklore and beyond. It’s mentioned in Greek myths, and even in the Bible (when David plays his harp to soothe his troubled king).
Some Facts About Music Therapy
Broadly, music therapy falls into two categories: playing music and listening to music. The latter involves listening to music in order to relieve panic, anxiety or stress – and to help the listeners regain control of their lives.
This is often coupled with meditation, and the listener is encouraged to also use correct breathing techniques and guided imagery. We now know that music affects the deeper reaches of the brain and can radically change hormonal imbalances, thereby promoting healthier moods.
How Does Music Have This Effect?
In the months before birth, a baby is surrounded by warmth and security in the mother’s womb. The most reassuring sound is the mother’s heart beat. Medical experts now claim that when we’re in a relaxed state the regular beat or rhythm of music rekindles feelings first experienced before birth.
Slow music with a soft, regular beat can take us back to this time when we had no worries about work, bills and complex relationships. The music can help us to retreat mentally from these everyday concerns as we bask in the soothing and enveloping sounds!
However, selecting music for therapy – for self or others – can be quite tricky. Instead of promoting stress relief, the wrong kind of music can cause stress. And just because you have a favorite style doesn’t mean it will work for this! For the profound relaxation and stress relief we’re talking about you must select more carefully. (Some people even listen to so-called ‘relaxing music’ they can’t stand – and it does anything but relax them)
Fortunately, professional music therapists can guide us here. They recommend music that has a rhythm of less than 72 beats per minute – that’s slower than the heart beat. If the music goes in cycles or repeating segments, so much the better.
Some of the most effective genres of music are known to be:
* Classical themes
* Celtic rhythms
* Native American
* New Age
As already mentioned, you must bear in mind that different types of music can have different effects:
When you’re lonely and blue, steer clear of weepy country songs!
If you’re stressed and your brain is over-active, hard rock could be the last thing you need. On the other hand, if you’ve had a particularly boring day at the office, heavy metal could be the best music therapy for you – provided you like it, of course!
When you’re facing a challenge and no one else can help, putting on your favorites from the ‘old days’ of your youth can have a very encouraging effect.
Listening to the music of nature – a babbling brook, birds singing or leaves whispering in the breeze – is a great way to induce a stress-relieving relaxed state. And instrumental music like flutes coupled with bass drums can work wonders.
How To Make The Most Of Music Therapy
Try these tips for great music therapy time-out:
* Set aside a minimum of 20 minutes in a place where you won’t be bothered by others
* Sit or lie in a restful state
* Or you may prefer to walk in a restful, quiet environment while listening to your iPod or CD player. This can also combine regular, deep breathing and exercise
* Remember to choose music that suits your particular requirements; you may like to consider music with guided meditations on themes such as self-motivation, stress relief, decision making
* Daily sessions are best, but if this not possible do them as often as you can
Better health, improved relationships, enhanced moods, stress relief: these are only some of the benefits of music therapy. Just watch you don’t become addicted!