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Six ways music can improve mental health

Mental illnesses are common among many Americans today.  Studies revealed in 2019, one out of five adults suffer from mental disorders, and 51.5 million were diagnosed.  The most common mental illnesses are depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, social phobia, autism, and eating and panic disorders.  These mental illnesses can either be triggered by traumatic experiences, stress, or genetics.

There are many ways for mental health to be treated naturally without medication, such as music.  Music Therapy focuses on the goals of learning coping skills, expressing emotions, increasing communication and social skills, increasing focus, and improving insight.  Music Therapy has a three-way relationship between the client, the therapist, and the music.  Music Therapy is very popular with patients who are dealing with trauma like PTSD or unexpected loss.

Music is what brings out people’s different personalities.  For example, most people who enjoy listening to rap music are more likely to be outgoing with high self-esteem.  The ones who enjoy listening to soft, classical music are more likely to be introverted and quiet.  Everyone has a different preference, and their personality often reflects in the music they enjoy.     

Music helps regulate a person’s mood and mind.  When the brain hears the rhythmic patterns and repetition, its neocortex is engaged, and hormones called dopamine are released.  As a result, the person becomes calmer and more relaxed.  Dopamine is a neurotransmitter used to calm the brain and make a person feel happier and excited.  When a song is familiar and has an upbeat tempo, the dopamine works its magic.

There are many other reasons why Music Therapy is vital.  First, it is important to release emotions.  Music can help express how a person truly feels without words.  For example, a person is more likely to listen to a certain playlist to let out their emotions during a breakup.  There are different songs for each mood and situation every person experiences.  Hearing a song that goes along with that experience helps people see they are not alone.

Secondly, a person with low self-esteem can feel better when listening to faster songs.  Studies say alpha waves from 8-14 help the brain develop confidence. Thirdly,  music can help with sleep insomnia by relaxing listeners.  The autonomic system becomes more relaxed, allowing the person struggling to sleep to breathe slower, have a lower heart rate, and reduce blood pressure. The type of music that is suggested is classical music of 60 beats per minute. 

Fourthly, music also helps lift people’s moods when their favorite songs that speak to them are playing. Their brain releases hormones allowing them to become calmer and somewhat happier.  The fifth situation music therapy can be used for is helping with autism.  Therapy for autism can include learning an instrument or expanding one’s knowledge of musical taste.  Music can be a great distraction and help with focus.  It also can be used to develop better social skills.

The sixth situation where music therapy can be used is as a distraction to calm and ease physical pain.  Treatment includes breathing exercises to provide relaxation.  The relaxation helps with blood pressure, respiration, and heart rate.  To avoid being on pain medication, people can use music as an escape from their problems.  Therapists teach patients how to use an instrument and sing a song to keep the patient’s mind off the pain.

Music is a significant factor in life, and without it, the world would be a different place.  Music Therapy may be uncommon to most people, but it is an important profession.  Music Therapy is an organic and natural way to help improve mental health.  These six methods have been proven to help people with mental disorders.  Medicine may not be a cure for all mental problems, but they can sometimes be treated by what people currently possess.

by Mikayla Rainey

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