Music and Mental Health
It could be a song that reminds you of a happy moment, a harmony that elevates your spirits, a beat that gets you dancing and makes you feel free, song lyrics and/or tunes that touch your heart or a piece that soothes your emotions and allows you to turn off the noise for a while. Either way, most of us have experienced the healing powers of music and it indeed has the ability to clear your mind heal your heart, body and soul.
Music therapy is a newly revived healing concept but sound healing has been a method used by ancient cultures, including ancient Egyptian priests chanting hymns to the gods and the "yidaki" (didgeridoo) used by the Aboriginal people of Australia.
These past months have taken their toll on the mental well-being of so many. The Covid19 pandemic has impacted those with existing mental health issues and caused fear, stress and anxiety for many more. These are "...normal responses to perceived or real threats, at times when we are faced with uncertainty or the unknown", according to the WHO.
Therefore it is a great time to shine a light on what the world of music can do for humanity in these difficult times.
Music and the Brain
Scientists have studied the effects that music has on the brain by using groups of people and watching their brain activity through fMRI and PET scans. Just listening to music will light up many parts of our brains and when you play an instrument the imagery becomes even wilder. It's like an explosion of activity in our brain.
One of the significant findings of a study on Nature Neuroscience has been that listening to music triggers the release of dopamine, the chemical known as mood-enhancing. It is associated with pleasurable stimulants, such as food, money, drugs and being in love. In short, dopamine makes us physically feel good and music will make your brain produce more of it.
Singing requires deep and controlled breathing, to produce the sounds and make sure the notes are held for a certain amount of time. This kind of breath regulation is similar to yoga breaths, causing your body to relax and your mind to calm down. Deep and conscious breaths promote blood circulation, healthier lungs and heart as well as improving your posture as it physically lifts your sternum up.
If that's not enough, Baishali Mukherjee, the Southeast Asia regional liaison for the World Federation of Music Therapy said that "Singing is an aerobic exercise which sees the release of endorphins, the brain’s ‘feel-good’ chemicals". And when our mood is up then our immune system is boosted.
It is no surprise then that during lockdown you saw whole towns in Italy gathering on their balconies, singing songs of solidarity and boosting morale.
Playing an instrument
Every area of the brain is involved in the task of practicing playing an instrument, as well as the release of the "happy hormones" we spoke of above. Coordination, memory, language, motor skills, time management, patience akin to meditation are among the many things trained during the practice. This brain training benefits you in every other aspect of your life of course.
"Playing an instrument is the brain's equivalent of a full body workout", scientists have found.
Check out this video and get your mind blown as to the amazing benefits that playing an instrument has.
From Us to You
So we at Guitarwaze have a message for all you beautiful souls. Whether you're alone and starved of human contact, whether you are concerned for your children's education and mental health, whether you are finding yourself questioning your entire life at this moment, whether your fear of death or your concern for the future of humanity is taking you to dark places....we guarantee that the sound of music will give you relief in some way or the other. Take some time and just let a soothing tune take you somewhere else...somewhere, where the spirit is at peace and your body can relax. And if you make it a ritual, we guarantee you won't stop.
To finish off this topic, here's a heart warming tune, played by Guitarwaze master Hussein Dickie. Lean back, close your eyes and enjoy!