It’s not uncommon to play an upbeat song for motivation or a soothing tune to relax, but did you know that music is harnessed as a proven therapy for mood conditions? Here’s what you probably didn’t know about the therapeutic power of music:
1. Your mood is influenced by the type of music you listen to
We can all benefit from the therapeutic qualities of music, but not all music is beneficial for our mood. Elements of music like tempo, instruments, rhythm, lyrics and the associations we make with songs can provoke both positive and negative emotional responses in us. Interestingly, because of our unique perceptions and life experiences, two people can listen to the same music and have completely different emotional responses, which is why music therapy is so individualised.
Music can be used to bring out or hold onto positive emotions like joy, excitement and connectedness. It can also be used to dwell on or dissipate negative emotions like grief, anger and jealousy. Be sure to monitor the kind of music you listen to in different mood states, as you may be hindering your mental wellbeing without realising it.
Sane Australia suggests creating a playlist to help you through uncomfortable moods, for example a ‘Confidence Booster’ playlist to remind you of your strengths when feeling you’re feeling down.
2. Music is a remedy for stress & anxiety
Music can have powerful effects on physiological elements of our wellbeing, too. Calming music has been found to reduce the stress hormone cortisol and one study suggests that appropriate music is more effective at reducing anxiety before surgery than prescription drugs.
You can even reduce your resting heart rate by listening to appropriate slow tempo music. This can promote feelings of calmness and wellbeing, as well as reduce the symptoms of stress and anxiety.
3. Music Therapy is a formal discipline
According to Bridie Fitzgerald, a registered Music Therapist with the Australian Music Therapy Association (AMTA), untrained people can find their own ways of using music therapeutically, but lack the ability to contextualise how and why it works. A professional Music Therapist is trained not only in methods of music therapy, but also in understanding the role that music plays in people’s lives and how to develop a unique music therapy program to fit a person’s context and needs.
The role of a Music Therapist in mental health recovery is diverse. Bridie explains that her role helps people with mental health concerns “to gain a better understanding of their symptoms, express the impact their diagnosis of mental health issues has on their daily life, create music which recreates their experience, learn stress and anxiety strategies, or learn to use recorded music effectively to reduce symptoms.”
Music Therapy can be a preferred form of therapy for those who aren’t able or willing to put their emotional experiences into words. Bridie suggests that “engaging with music has a link to our subconscious and psychological processing, so therefore it elicits emotional and psychological material that may otherwise remain unidentified.” In this sense, like other forms of art, music can help us better understand our inner experiences and relate them to the world around us.
4. There’s more to Music Therapy than ‘listening to music’
Listening to music is just one form of music therapy. Music therapy could include song writing, instrument playing, music and movement, music and technology, and singing. The types of music therapy that will work best for you depends on your needs, abilities and preferences.
You can also experience the therapeutic benefits of music with others, which has the added benefit of social connectedness. Analysing music with friends and synchronised dancing are common examples of this.
Music can improve your mood and maintain a sense of wellbeing in your everyday life. For further assistance with your mental health, you can access our low-cost counselling services here or contact a Music Therapist in Perth.