By Kai Greene, Clinical Intern
In 2002’s hit movie, Brown Sugar starring Sanaa Lathan, one of the most memorable lines was, “When did you fall in love with hip hop?” However, in this blog, I will be asking when music has provided a moment of relief, comfort, or clarity in a challenging time. Research has often talked about the benefits of music, which is far more than a method of entertainment. Music is a part of a triad that aids in helping people feel connected and is part of a collective experience that impacts fashion, film, and culture relatively.
Music has a multitude of therapeutic benefits. Music therapy is used as a treatment option proven by evidence (Gilroy & Lee, 2019). One of the therapeutic benefits of music is that it helps treat disabilities such as depression, substance abuse, autism, and cardiac conditions. Other therapeutic benefits include improving memory, reducing stress, enhancing self-esteem, coping daily, and lowering blood pressure. Listening to music helps boost the immune system and helps reduce stress levels in the human body (Rawlins, 2017). According to recent studies, playing and listening to music brings some sensation and feeling to the body. Such a feeling raises the human body’s ability to produce an antibody referred to as immunoglobulin A (IgA). Besides the production of immunoglobulin antibodies, the body also releases natural killer cells that fight off infections, bacteria and toxins. These natural killer cells attack viruses that invade the body, while immunoglobulin A antibody helps in boosting the effectiveness of the immune system to resist various diseases. Research also indicates that playing music gives the human body the ability to reduce cortisol, a stress hormone responsible for lowering stress levels.
Music therapy can help individuals who abuse substances (Silverman, 2021). According to recent studies, people who use illicit substances gradually lack motivation; however, when such individuals play and listen to music, they slowly develop higher self-esteem and reduce stress. Additionally, listening to music helps such individuals reduce muscle tension, enhance self-awareness, reduce anxiety, and improve coping skills. Music therapy is also effective for individuals who have mental disorders (Afra et al., 2018). For example, an individual who has autism usually finds it hard to communicate with others because of social fear. However, playing and listening to music can help them express themselves well and even find better ways of communicating with others without fear. Such activity is possible since listening to music helps individuals explore their feelings and thoughts and evaluate themselves based on their environment.
Music therapy can also be essential and vital for people who suffer from depression and trying to regulate emotions during crises (Gadd et al., 2020). Individuals exposed to severe trauma in the past might have pain, stress, and get anxious. Listening to music helps in terms of reducing pain, stress, and anxiety. All this is possible through enhancing an individual’s mood, raising a person’s confidence, and allowing one to maintain control of their emotions. Music enhances moods and improves concentration. Music is also used to celebrate accomplishments, after all, what would a college graduation be without the ability to “swag and surf.” Overall, music is a form of self-expression and can aid in verbalizing unpleasant thoughts and feelings. If you have a tough day or have difficulty articulating your thoughts, try finding a tune to match or change your mood, anyone can benefit from exploring a new way of communicating through song.
Afra, P., Bruggers, C. S., Sweney, M., Fagatele, L., Alavi, F., Greenwald, M., … & Bulaj, G. (2018). Mobile software as a medical device (SaMD) for the treatment of epilepsy: development of digital therapeutics comprising behavioral and music-based interventions for neurological disorders. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 12, 171.
Gadd, S., Tak, C., & Bulaj, G. (2020). Developing music streaming as an adjunct digital therapy for depression: A survey study to assess support from critical stakeholders. Journal of Affective Disorders Reports, 2, 100048.
Gilroy, A., & Lee, C. (Eds.). (2019). Art and music: therapy and research. Routledge.
Rawlins, P. (2017). Rocking and Humming to “a prayer in the dark” The Therapeutics of Music in Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina. South Atlantic Review, 82(2), 117-135.
Silverman, M. J. (2021). Music-based emotion regulation and healthy and unhealthy music use predict coping strategies in adults with substance use disorder: A cross-sectional study. Psychology of Music, 49(3), 333-350.