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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Recorded Musical Therapy

"Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life." ~Berthold Auerbach
This eloquently stated quote speaks for itself. It aptly links music's mysterious power to cleansing waters that make people feel better and less burdened. Considering the history of music, scholars can find countless references to music's importance to not only aid the completion of work but to soothe the harsh effects work places on the body. Be it sea chanteys or call-and-response field spirituals, workers used rhythm to attune their bodies to the pace required of the labor or even to communicate in a rebellion. Then, after work, these people used music to recuperate and regenerate. The practice continues today. Dr. Mike Miller of the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore thought, if laughter can can actually open up blood vessels, why not music? So, he tested the effects of music on the cardiovascular system. "Turns out music may be one of the best de-stressors -- either by playing or even listening to music," said Miller. (Val Willingham, CNN Medical Producer, May 11 2009) Using high-tech imaging, Miller measured blood vessel size as people listened to music. The results did not surprise him. "The inner lining of the blood vessel relaxed, opened up and produced chemicals that are protective to the heart," he said. But when participants listened to music they didn't particularly enjoy, Miller said, "the vessels actually began to close up." Miller also believes music can be so relaxing that it can actually keep the body young. "We would like to believe that it may slow down the aging process," he said. Still, for best results, people should not listen to the same tune. This diminished the music's effects. "You just don't get that boost if you listen to the same song over and over again," he said. "You need to vary your songs, so when you hear the song fresh, it brings back the sense of joy and opens up the system." (Val Willingham, CNN) In news from other related research, doctors found listening to music may produce positive results for those suffering from depression. A recent study out of Stanford University found elderly patients diagnosed with depression gained self-esteem and saw an improvement in their mood when they were visited by a music therapist.

In fact, many hospitals across the country use music therapy to help patients heal. The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, uses music as part of its cardiovascular surgery healing program to "promote relaxation and reduce tension, stress and anxiety." Music helps these patients relax, decreases their pain, improves their moods and helps them to sleep better, especially during recovery.

So, how should people use music therapy to enhance their physical and mental well being? All should actively seek their most beneficial musical directions; however, here are some suggestions from Elizabeth Scott, M.S., a stress management guide, in her article "Music and Stress Relief: How to Use Music in Your Daily Life." These routine daily activities offer excellent opportunities to enjoy music.

1. Wake yourself up with music. Start your day feeling great, setting the tone for a lower-stress day.

2. Play your favorite music in the car to eliminate road rage. By relieving some of the tension from the commute itself and the day so far, music helps you feel less like you’re wasting time in traffic, and more like you’re having some nice time to yourself.

3. Listen to music while you cook. You can make better nutrition through home cooking more of a fun activity rather than a chore. You’ll likely find yourself relaxed and in a better frame of mind once dinner starts, which can enable you to savor your dinner and your company as you eat.

4. Trigger the relaxation response as you're eating with soothing music. Doing this can lower cortisol levels, making it easier to digest food. Also, studies have shown that classical music in particular can help you eat less, digest better, and enjoy your food more. 5. Play some energetic music to raise your energy level and have fun as you clean. If you tell yourself that you only need to clean for a certain amount of songs and then you can be done, you may work more efficiently, and even come to look forward to doing the job. 6. Pay bills to music. Playing music while you write your checks can help take your mind off financial stress you may be feeling, and make the task more enjoyable. 7. Play music as you drift off to sleep. Music helps counteract the effects of stress by taking your mind from what’s stressing you, slowing down your breathing, and soothing your mind. Here Scott cites some particularly good CD selections for relaxation and stress relief. ("Top 7 CDs for Relaxation and Stress Relief," 2007)

1. Best of Silk Road, by Kitaro

2. In My Time, by Yanni

3. Monkey Business by The Black-Eyed Peas

4. Songs About Jane, by Maroon 5

5. Vivaldi’s Four Seasons by Music for Relaxation

6. A Day Without Rain, by Enya

7. Pachelbel’s Canon with Ocean Surf

Violinist Daniel Kobialka has said his deepest hope has always been that his music will bring joy and well being to listeners. Surprising to him at first, and since a source of great satisfaction, he has learned that many healers, from Dr. Bernie Siegel to Dr. Joan Borysenko, have used his musical interpretations to assist in relaxation and guided imagery. Recent research study results are in that push our boundaries of understanding our brains, stress, and the effects of music stimuli on mental states. According to his research, Kobialka reports. "We all know that music can help you to "feel good," but did you know that research has shown that this good can last far past the actual listening experience? It's true - music changes your brainwave activity levels and this also helps your brain accomplish this on its own." (Musical Inspirations Website and Kobialka also believes that one of the great benefits of music for stress relief is its versatility. You can listen to it in your leisure time and carry the benefits with you long after you've stopped listening, and you can also incorporate it into your daily life, thanks to mp3 technologies, without having to stop what you're doing. In closing, what does the future of music therapy hold. Drummer Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead speculates the following in a recent article "Mickey Harts Speaks Out For the Science Of Music." "It's kind of seat of the pants now. Sometimes you can get the magic, you can get the rhythm, get the groove, go with the trance, but once you decode it, then a doctor will be able to write a prescription for music. Your HMOs and your insurance companies will be able to pay for it, and music will be a legitimate preventive medicine, as well as other things. Music is an incredible energy, most people don't realize the power that music has, but they will, it's inevitable." (Susan E. Mandel, Ph.D., MT-BC,
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