“Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” – Plato
Many of us can attest to the power of music. Listening to a particular song can make us feel happy or sad, at times even bringing on tears. Music can move us in more ways than one, as Plato so eloquently described it. Music can even have a spiritual effect, helping us to meditate and reflect.
Music also has a tangible physical effect. It has been used therapeutically throughout history by shamans, healers, and medicine men. Hippocrates, widely considered the father of modern medicine, is said to have played music to his patients.
Nowadays, music therapists have taken this form of healing to a whole new level. If all of this sounds airy fairy, it’s not; music therapy is evidence-based. Therapists receive special training to assess each patient and determine the best form of treatment. The healing power of music can be tapped through composition, song, movement, and dance. Simply listening to specific types of music can also be beneficial.
Music therapy has many practical uses; it can decrease heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate. This form of therapy can be used for pain management and to alleviate depression, insomnia, and anxiety. It can be especially helpful for those who have difficulty communicating, such as people with Alzheimer’s, autism spectrum disorders, and patients experiencing the after-effects of stroke.
One doesn’t need to seek professional help to enjoy the healing power of music. An easy way is to listen to alpha relaxation music, which is recorded at a frequency of 7-13 Hz. This matches the frequency of brain waves produced when a person is in a relaxed state with closed eyes, sometimes called an “alpha state.”
Try this simple exercise: Set aside a quiet time in the day when you will not be disturbed. Play some alpha relaxation music and close your eyes. Take slow, deep breaths through your abdomen. Place a hand on your belly and take a deep breath in. Your hand should move away from your body as your lungs fill with air. As you exhale, your hand will naturally fall back down towards your body. Try exhaling for twice as long as you inhale; if you breathe in for a count of four, breathe out for a count of eight. Do this for as long as you feel comfortable.
This exercise can decrease stress, the harmful effect of which is well-documented. Alpha relaxation music can also help meal or bedtime routines run more smoothly.
Got a question?
Dr.Melissa is a mom of two and a wellness consultant. She also works as a naturopath at International Medical Center. Check out her website at www.drmelissarodriguez.com
photo from leesean (FLICKR)
This article originally appeared on p24 of the beijingkids February 2014 issue.
Check out the PDF version online at Issuu.com