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Musical Aids for Trying Times: Why Great Music Soothes the Soul

Posted Dec 10 2012 2:41am

Music can do more than inspire you to hit the dance floor. Research shows that it can improve mental and physical health. The next time you have a hard time recovering from an illness, you might want to turn up the radio before you pop another pill.

Music Can Alleviate Depression

Image via Flickr by Rodney

Music therapy uses two approaches to alleviate depression . In some cases, a patient talks about feelings and experiences while listening to music with a counselor. In other cases, the therapist and patient play music together. Just beating on a drum can have a tremendous impact on people suffering from depression.

Many therapists have found that music therapy works especially well when treating people who reject traditional counseling. A teenage boy with depression might not want to talk about his feelings, but playing guitar or drums doesn’t sound nearly so bad. This helps improve the patient’s mood while creating a bond with the counselor that makes him feel more comfortable.

Music Can Lower Anxiety

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Listening to music can also lower anxiety, a condition that affects about 40 million adults in the United States. Doctors often treat anxiety with antidepressant and benzodiazepine drugs that can cause unwanted side effects. Music, however, is the most natural way for a person to shift into a more positive mood state.

Despite what some people say, you don’t have to listen to “calming” music to experience lower levels of anxiety. It matters more that you choose music you enjoy listening to. If you love quiet New Age music, then that will help you feel more relaxed. If you love dance music, then that will put you into a more positive frame of mind. Some people could even benefit from listening to heavy metal. It’s all a matter of personal taste.

Treating Pain With Music

Image via Flickr by Cameron Parkins

Music does more than treat mental health issues. Listening to music can also reduce a patient’s pain. Studies have shown that patients who listen to music after surgery require lower dosages of pain killers. Instead of prescribing oxycodone, maybe hospitals should give their patients James Taylor tickets .

Listening to music can also soothe minor pains. Some researchers believe that listening to music simply provides a distraction so that a person doesn’t pay as much attention to pain. Others point out that listening to music causes a surge of dopamine in the brain. The music essentially helps the brain produce its own natural, pain-killing drugs.

Music Promotes Physical Rehab

Image via Flickr by Roger Mommaerts

Injuries and physical disabilities can take years of rehab. Many patients find that they even have to live in rehab facilities so they can get adequate care. When used properly, though, music can shorten the time that patients spend undergoing rehab.

This happens for several reasons. For some patients, energetic music gives them the motivation to take a few extra steps during rehab. Other patients find that music helps them recover from strenuous exercises that can deplete them physically and emotionally. The analgesic qualities of music could also help people in rehab push themselves further so they recover faster.

Music seems to enhance every aspect of life. What tough times has it helped you get through?

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