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The Relationship Between Music and Mental Health

“Music can change the world.” — Beethoven

Music therapy has been studied closely in recent years, as it has been shown to significantly improve the quality of life for individuals facing everything from depression to schizophrenia. This area of research has also made significant progress in relation to Alzheimer’s, as music appears to activate the brain, allowing whole regions to communicate. Upon playing a personalized playlist for a patient with dementia or Alzheimer’s, they “come alive.”

The psychological impact of music is powerful. If your goal is to improve your emotional health, better company stress, or simply boost your overall psychological well-being, here’s how music can help. 

The Impact of Music on Mood 

The potential impact of music on mood, health, and behavior has been pondered for centuries

It’s interesting to think about music in the sense that it is a fundamental attribute of the human species. From the most primitive humans to the most advanced, music has been made by all cultures throughout history. The human brain is hard-wired to recognize music in comparison to noise, which has resulted in a highly specialized field of neurobiology research. 

Cheerful music has been shown to make people feel uplifted and happy — even those suffering from depressive illnesses. As reported in one review, music therapy added to treatment as usual (TAU) was shown to improve symptoms of depression compared with TAU alone. Music therapy was also shown to decrease anxiety levels and improve overall functioning among depressed individuals. 

Best of all, music is a non-invasive, safe, and cost-effective intervention that is accessible to everyone. 

Bottom line: Music has been shown to help patients regain memories, better manage stress, stimulate new neural connections, influence emotion, improve attention, and better cope with physical pain. 

Who Can Benefit From Music Therapy?

As stated by Kim Innes, a professor of epidemiology at West Virginia University’s School of Public Health, “Music appears to selectively activate brain structures and neurochemical systems associated with positive mood, attention, emotion regulation, and memory.” 

There isn’t a specific area of the brain that solely processes music — it activates nearly every brain region. This showcases the power of music, as well as its many applications in terms of mental health, cognitive functioning, and overall neurological well-being. 

When it comes to music therapy, nearly everyone can benefit, including children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly in terms of mental health; those with developmental disabilities, individuals facing substance abuse issues, patients experiencing chronic pain, and the list goes on. 

For example, research has shown that music therapy is particularly beneficial among those dealing with trauma and/or substance abuse. Since many patients use drugs and alcohol to cope with past trauma, music therapy can help these individuals process negative emotions in a healthier manner. There is also often an overlap between depression and alcoholism. As discussed above, music can provide emotional support in a pleasurable and meaningful way. 

Interested in learning more about the ways in which creativity supports addiction recovery? Be sure to check out this Health Hub article

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