Suicide

How music can help you heal

Music therapy can calm anxiety, ease pain, and provide a pleasant diversion during chemotherapy or a hospital stay.

It’s almost impossible to find someone who doesn’t feel a strong connection to music. Even if you can’t carry a tune or play an instrument, you can probably reel off a list of songs that evoke happy memories and raise your spirits. Surgeons have long played their favorite music to relieve stress in the operating room, and extending music to patients has been linked to improved surgical outcomes. In the past few decades, music therapy has played an increasing role in all facets of healing.

What is music therapy?

Music therapy is a burgeoning field. People who become certified music therapists are usually accomplished musicians who have deep knowledge of how music can evoke emotional responses to relax or stimulate people or help them heal. They combine this knowledge with their familiarity with a wide variety of musical styles to find the specific kind that can get you through a challenging physical rehab session or guide you into meditation. And they can find that music in your favorite genre, be it electropop or grand opera.

Holly Chartrand, a music therapist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, first trained as a vocalist. She decided to become a music therapist when she realized that she could use music to support others just as it had supported her throughout her life. “The favorite part of my job is seeing how big an impact music can have on someone who isn’t feeling well,” she says.

Music therapists know few boundaries. They may play music for you or with you, or even teach you how to play an instrument. On a given day, Chartrand may be toting a tank drum, a ukulele, or an iPad and speakers into a patient’s room. “Technology gives us so much access to all kinds of music that I can find and play almost any kind of music you like,” she says.

The evidence for music therapy’s benefits

A growing body of research attests that music therapy is more than a nice perk. It can improve medical outcomes and quality of life in a variety of ways. Here’s a sampling:

Easing anxiety and discomfort during procedures. In controlled clinical trials of people having colonoscopies, cardiac angiography, or knee surgery, those who listened to music before their procedure had less anxiety and less need for sedatives. People who listened to music in the operating room reported less discomfort during their procedure. And those who heard music in the recovery room used less opioid medication for pain.

Restoring lost speech. Music therapy can help people who are recovering from a stroke or traumatic brain injury that has damaged the left-brain region responsible for speech. Because singing ability originates in the right side of the brain, people can work around the injury to the left side of their brain by first singing their thoughts and then gradually dropping the melody. Former U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords used this technique to enable her to testify before a Congressional committee two years after a gunshot wound to her brain destroyed her ability to speak.

Reducing side effects of cancer therapy. Listening to music reduces anxiety associated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy. It can also quell nausea and vomiting for patients receiving chemotherapy.

Helping with physical therapy and rehabilitation. If you exercise to a playlist, you’ve probably noticed that music helps you stick to your routine. In fact, a 2011 analysis of several studies suggests that music therapy enhances people’s physical, psychological, cognitive, and emotional functioning during physical rehabilitation programs.

Aiding pain relief. Music therapy has been tested in a variety of patients, ranging from those with intense short-term pain to those with chronic pain from arthritis. Over all, music therapy decreases pain perception, reduces the amount of pain medication needed, helps relieve depression in pain patients, and gives them a sense of better control over their pain.

Improving quality of life for people with dementia. Because the ability to engage with music remains intact late into the disease process, music therapy can help to evoke memories, reduce agitation, assist communication, and improve physical coordination.

 

Why are musicians more likely to suffer from depression?

Creative artists are fifth in the top 10 professions with high rates of depressive illness. But does depression attract them to the job? Or does the job make them depressed?

Health.com recently published a top 10 of professions with the highest rate of depression– one chart most artists wouldn’t want to be on. However, people working in the arts are fifth most likely to suffer from depression, with around 9% of them reporting a major depressive episode in the previous year. It appears carving out a career as a musician isn’t just perilous when it comes to earning a living – it can also cause damage to your physical and mental health. Musicians supplementing their income by waiting tables would rate even higher on the chart, as food service staff are second most prone to depression.

You know it the second you hear the first notes. It’s that one special song that makes your spine tingle. You can feel the tears welling up in your eyes.

How does that happen? Only seven notes can come together to form a soul-moving melody that can break your heart, make you cry, and bring back buried, long-forgotten memories.

Music is powerful.

 

Image result for depression photo

1. Music helps you work through your problems

Often during your darkest nights, you can’t find a way through the muddy alleyways of your mind. Good news! Don’t just lie there, turn on Google play and let the music flow into you. If you cry, that’s OK. Tears represent feelings that must be expressed. Feeling is healing.

Music helps you express your emotions. It’s melodic encouragement that helps you let go of suppressed feelings. A study published in the British Journal showed that music is cathartic, especially drumming. You didn’t need a medical study to prove that. You discovered that yourself when you were a 4 year-old banging on your mother’s pots and pans.

2. Music inspires creativity

Do you need to write a blog, run faster on the treadmill, or design a new website but can’t because you’re feeling uninspired? Pump up the jam. Music will motivate you. Go ahead, try to sit still while listening to Avicii sing Wake Me Up, it’s just not possible.

Finnish researchers found that the mind-wandering mode goes into action when your brain processes a song, thus inspiring creativity. These rewards don’t only happen to artists: Techies also benefit from the relaxing effect of music.

Professor Gold (one of the Finnish researchers) who conducted the study said, “Our trial has shown that music therapy, when added to standard care including medication, psychotherapy and counseling, helps people to improve their levels of depression and anxiety. Music therapy has specific qualities that allow people to express themselves and interact in a non-verbal way – even in situations when they cannot find the words to describe their inner experiences.”

3. Music affects your breathing

Music has the power to speed up your heartbeats or slow down your breathing. Musicians beware! You respond differently than the rest of us.

Anyone can feel the music. Your foot starts tapping as your body sways from side to side. Who hasn’t been to a concert when you felt the bass beating in your chest? There is scientific proof behind it.

A slow, meditative tempo has a relaxing effect slowing your heart rate and breathing while faster music with an upbeat tempo speeds up your heart rate and respiration.

You are can be in charge of your body, simply by choosing which songs you listen to. Next time you’re feeling anxious, when your heart starts to race, grab your headset and listen to Zen Garden.

4. Music can reduce blood pressure

Here’s the prescription: Listen to classical, Celtic or reggae music 30 minutes a day to lower your blood pressure. According to the American Society of Hypertension, research shows this simple prescription might significantly reduce high blood pressure.

In a report from Dr. Peter Sleight at the University of Oxford, research has shown “music can alleviate stress, improve athletic performance, improve movement in neurologically impaired patients with stroke or Parkinson’s disease, and even boost milk production in cattle.”

Don’t throw away your medication yet, but music is certainly an easier pill to take.


5. Music is used to treat addiction

Music therapy can be of great value in treating addiction. It is certainly not enough by itself to help someone recover from substance abuse, but it can be a useful tool in the treatment process.

Addiction is a painful disease that affects the entire family and circle of friends. Making the decision to enter rehab is the first step towards recovery. Help is available and new methods of treatment are continually being discovered.

Thamkrabok is a Buddhist temple in Thailand offering free treatment to for addiction. Music plays an important role at the temple because of its therapeutic powers. The monks of Thamkrabok even have their own recording studio.  Tim Arnold, the UK musician made a whole album there.

Sobriety is an emotional roller coaster. Music (either playing it or listening to it) may help people get rid of some of their destructive emotions.

6. Music might prevent suicide

The sound of music is incredibly powerful. It can even prevent suicide.

IN 1997, DMC aka Darrell McDaniels, of Run DMC, was at the top of the charts. While touring he fell into a negative downward spiral, thinking Is this all there is?

He was serious. At that moment, he made a decision to commit suicide when he got home.

Staring at the walls in a cold hotel room, Sarah McLachlan’s song “Angel” came on the radio. You know it’s power. It makes you cry and want to run out and adopt one of those sad animals in the SPCA commercial.

It’s hard to believe, but that song changed his suicide plan. He became a huge fan of Sarah McLachlan. Soon after, he found out he was adopted, which gave his life new meaning.

After DMC trashed his suicide plan, he made a new plan to use his music and fame to decided to promote adoption and help foster kids. He even made a documentary to promote his worthy cause.

7. Music in the operating room

Did you know doctors have a specific playlist for different types of surgery?

 Anthony Youn, M.D. cites a study published in “Surgical Endoscopy” that found classical music affected surgeons more positively than hard rock or heavy metal.

Oddly, another study published by “Surgical Innovation” noted surgeons’ performances benefitted most from hip-hop and reggae the music. Go figure!

Dr. Youn says, “It probably comes down to taste, with surgeons finding comfort and inspiration working to the music they like to hear.”

Doctors aren’t the only ones affected. Several studies show that patients appear more relaxed, require less anesthesia, and recover quicker when physicians play tunes in the OR.

Nearly 80% of operating room support staff believed music had a positive effect on their work as well. I wonder if the remaining 20% wear noise-cancelling headphones.

Who knows what the future of the OR will bring? Maybe there’ll be a DJ taking requests for your favorite spins.

8.  Music reduces pain

Whether it’s Sam Smith, Lady Gaga, or Jason Mraz, the lyrics and melodies they write and sing can be effective therapy for managing pain. According to a paper in the UK-based Journal of Advanced Nursing, listening to music can reduce chronic pain from a range of painful conditions, including osteoarthritis, disc problems and rheumatoid arthritis, by up to 21%. That’s a lot when you’re hurting.

Music is a distraction that gives the patient a sense of control. Music causes the body to release endorphins, which counteract pain.

9. Music jars your memory

Beware: Handle music with care. Some songs put you in a time machine and set you back to painful times. Hopefully, when you get there, you will remember the lessons you learned, see how much you have grown and how much better you are doing since leaving those sad times behind you. Leaving those memories allows you to open your heart to new adventures.

So next time you make your playlist, choose carefully, those songs are going deep into your soul. They might inspire you to create a new start-up, stop drinking so much, become a triathete, or fall in love.

There’s no doubt about it. Those seven notes can change your life.