Bringing music into our lives
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Dr. Sidrah Muntaha, Chartered Clinical Psychologist, DClinPych, CPsychol, AFBPsS
29th March, 20180 Comments
How can music help?
We all know that listening to music can help us relax, but research suggests that music can have a direct effect on brain functioning, cognition and emotional responses. Music therapy as a discipline uses music using a variety of theoretical approaches and techniques to help patients to express their emotions through music. However, music can also be used by other therapists and practitioners in their work if incorporated within evidence-based frameworks.
Music for anxiety & depression
Listening to classical music or other calming music can have a positive effect on patients who suffer from chronic anxiety and depression. It can both lower stress and increase mood which is likely to result in an increase in positive behaviours including motivation and improved sleep patterns. For patients with coronary heart disease, music has been shown to be effective through reducing anxiety and stress, which in turn can reduce heart rate and blood pressure.
Music for Alzheimers’ disease
Music has been shown to be effective in reducing the rate of decline in patients diagnosed with Alzheimers disease. Similarly, it has been shown to promote cognitive functioning and memory in adults with early onset dementia, learning disability and other neurological difficulties. Many older adults with cognitive difficulties find that music helps them to connect with their past experiences and memories. For example, even an individual who has lost their recent memories may still remember a piece of music or song from their early adulthood which may help them to feel more connected and motivated to engage in different aspects of their care.
Music for Autism
Music is known to be effective for children and adults on the autistic spectrum. It can help with communication, language skills as well as social interaction. Individuals who are moderate to severely autistic often experience music to be soothing particularly when combined with other sensory experiences. This may include sensory lights, textured objects or massage.
How can I use music in my life?
There are a number of ways that you can consider using music to support your own well-being. Whether or not you or a loved one is suffering from any of the above, music can be applied to combat against everyday stress, anxiety and worries. Remember, there are no rules about how you ‘should’ use music. It is a subjective experience and and the issue is finding what works for you. However, here are some ideas to help you start you thinking about how you can bring the benefits of music to your life or to those around you.
- Make a regular protected time to listen actively to music. This could be during your lunchtime at work, before you leave the house or during your days off. Try to notice how the music makes you feel, notice any imagery it evokes in your mind, consider your thoughts, notice any physiological responses and notice how your breathing may be changing. Try to engage in the music in terms of what it means for you.
- Build in listening to quiet calming/relaxing music in the background. This needs to be preferably at a regular time, away from other tasks and focused on relaxation and slow, deep breathing. You can introduce music to bath-times, during a night/sleep routine, during long journeys (through earphones) or during massage/muscle relaxation exercise.
- Try to listen to live music where possible. This could be concerts by artists you like or could even be free local entertainment offered by your local arts organisations. Try to find out about local arts organisations and what they offer to the public. You may be surprised by how much is already available which can become part of your coping strategy.
- Try to connect or spend time with friends who appreciate the music you enjoy. You may wish to join a choir/music class or just informal networking with like-minded individuals. The social aspect of music itself can be beneficial so try out music appreciation groups, classes or even have a go at forming a band if you play a musical instrument!
- There are no ends to possibilities, so go ahead and find what works for you!
About the author
Sidrah is a HCPC registered Chartered Clinical Psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society. She offers assessments and therapy including CBT from her South Woodford clinic and works in the NHS. She is a member of the British Association for Music Therapy and uses CBT-music where appropriate to engage patients.
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