How music therapy impacts physical and mental health

Some days, when everything seems to be going wrong, nothing can get you out of that bad mood like listening to your favorite song. Whether it’s a pop tune, a desi dance number, an old Bollywood ballad or a classical tune, listening to music you love can have a calming effect. It gives us a break from reality and can prompt us to feel a range of sensations – from relaxed to euphoric. 

According to experts, music can be used as a tool to help people improve their physical and mental states. Today, music therapy is even being recommended by healthcare professionals in India to help improve the mental health of patients who are recovering from Covid.

Scientists have come to the conclusion that music is capable of activating all areas of the brain simultaneously, meaning it can have a range of health benefits. Read on to find out how it can aid the wellbeing of both children and adults.

The benefits of music therapy

Besides having the ability to simply lift one’s mood, research has shown that music can be beneficial to a range of mental health issues, such as trauma, depression, anxiety and schizophrenia. Music therapy is said to help people process their feelings, whether that’s trauma, grief or anxiety. It can help combat sadness or depression when combined with other therapies. On a cognitive level, it also helps maintain and direct a person’s focus.

Music therapy is used by experts to help improve the moods of patients who have to spend long periods in hospital for treatments. Thanks to the benefits of music, these patients are able to ‘escape’ their stressful situation, giving their minds a much needed mental break. 

The physical benefits of music

Because music is a means of expression and non-verbal communication, its emotional effects are very positive. The benefits of music include alleviating and reducing pain, anxiety and stress. Thanks to its ability to relax listeners, music can be added to breathing exercises. Some patients with chronic ailments have seen their quality of life improve after consistently using music therapy.

What is music therapy?

Music therapy uses audio elements, such as sounds, melodies or rhythms, for therapeutic purposes. Music therapy helps the learning process, promotes communication and facilitates interaction between people. Thanks to the techniques of this discipline, experts are able to improve patients’ quality of life. Music therapy has shown great improvements in some patients, both physically and mentally.

Music therapy activities

Music therapy works in three main ways:

Improvisation and music therapy

Patients can create their own music freely within certain limits. This encourages creativity and expression.

Activities for children: Ask them to make up a song with different tones. First, ask for a cheerful one, which usually has an easier beat. Once they have got going, suggest changes to slower or faster tones. They can sing or play instruments.

Activities for adults: Ask them to play instruments with a rhythm that reminds them of the sea. Afterwards, you can improvise the sound of rain, a slight sprinkle at first, until it gradually turns into a storm. Make progressive changes to the rhythm.

Recreation and music therapy

A song can be sung or an instrument played using an existing piece of music. It can be done by reading the score (or using more basic indications) or from memory. This helps activate memory and concentration.

Activities for children: Try the ‘song game’. Write popular song titles on pieces of paper and place them in a bag. The child will select one song at a time and reinterpret that song.

Activities for adults: Ask them to sing or hum the song of an artist or band that you call out. Put it to the test with some old and new songs!

Listening and music therapy

This is where participants listen to already recorded music or live music.

Activities for children: Play a song for the child and ask them to move based on what the song says. The goal is for them to pay attention to the rhythm and melody in order to activate their motor skills.

Activities for adults: Try playing musical ‘bingo’ or ‘housie’. This activity is a bit more elaborate, but also very fun and effective. Write a number of song titles on a card or sheet of paper and play them one by one, so the participants can mark them on their bingo/housie cards. This game is ideal for listening to music in a group.

Those who do not need active medical interventions can benefit from these simple ways to incorporate music therapy into everyday life listed above. However, for serious ailments (such as mental health disorders), professional expertise and consistency is key to seeing results. 

Music therapy is often used as a supplementary recommendation to allopathic treatment, which is generally the first line of defence against physical or mental illness.

Make sure you have good health insurance to ensure that you and your family are financially prepared if the need for medical care arises. Having a comprehensive health cover can ensure you get good medical care without having to worry about high hospital and treatment bills.