Music has been proven to have a healing impact on combating feelings of anxiety, depression, and trauma. It is a conduit for processing emotions, trauma, and grief. It has the unique ability to touch our hearts and souls in times of crisis and devastation. Music therapy does not have to be clinically accessed, although working with a licensed music therapist in certain situations is recommended. But working with our Musical Mentors at The JamLab, playing with other musicians, and listening to music you love can benefit our mental health.
Passive music therapy is listening to music that soothes you or makes you feel happy. Throwing on your headphones and going for a walk can help reduce stress. Listening to your favourite album while washing the dishes with your family can lift your spirits and connect you with loved ones.
Active music therapy is the actual creation of music. Rhythmic music and playing the drums have been proven to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and help people feel more in control. Singing uses the body and breath, opening the lymphatic systems. Playing the guitar requires repetition and attention, leading to mindfulness practice teaching us to focus on the present. Songwriting and playing with others demand the use of our creative faculties, releasing natural endorphins that make us feel happy. People in high-conflict situations find friendship and peace connecting with others because of performance and collaboration.
One of the benefits of music is its capacity to reduce stress and anxiety. We see in clinical settings that listening and playing music lowers blood pressure. Whether it’s a piece by Chopin or your favourite Black Sabbath song, whatever your preference, it can help lower cortisol levels and promote relaxation and tranquility.
During times of crisis, children and adults can struggle with articulating their feelings. Often, silence can be a response to trauma and misinterpreted as apathy. Writing lyrics, playing an instrument, and singing off-key to a favourite tune all serve as vessels for expression. Exploring music that represents your feelings, either lyrically or melodically, helps to release emotions you might be suppressing. We all know the feeling of hearing a piece of music that stops you in your tracks and sends shivers through your body, where you can see yourself in the notes and lyrics or spiritually transported to another place.
We know that exposure to music at a young age helps enhance memory, attention, and problem-solving skills. Anxiety can impact our ability to focus and concentrate. With cell phones and social media, our thoughts can too easily be pulled to places of darkness. Older people with dementia, particularly those who also experience depression, have seen improvement in their memories and general health. Adults can prevent memory loss often associated with normal aging. To see the benefits, one needs to look at legendary musicians still touring and playing to crowds in their seventies and eighties.
Group music making, like drum circles, choirs, rock bands, quartets, or just playing with someone you love fosters and enhances a sense of belonging. It helps combat feelings of isolation and can build new relationships. People can come from all walks of life and have different perspectives of the world, but come together through a live jam. We know that people who spend time with others and participate in a skill-based activity live healthier, longer lives.
Music can benefit the mental health of people of all ages. It is accessible, whether actively or passively, fosters cognitive development, gives us a sense of focus, and can help us express ourselves when words fail us. It unites people from all backgrounds and experiences. People who utilize active and passive music therapy have experienced physiological and psychological stress reduction. We can never underestimate the healing power of music!