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Article written and designed by Cosimo Simeone, Msc, PgdDip, Bsc, Physiotherapist

Music isn’t just for entertainment. It’s a powerful tool that can deeply impact our mental health, offering comfort and relief to those suffering from depression and anxiety. It can play a crucial role in mental health care.

For those struggling with mental health issues, it can be a source of hope and strength. In addition could be a way to reduce symptoms. It’s more than just listening to your favorite tunes. It’s about engaging with it in a way that helps you express and process your emotions.

Furthermore, it’s becoming a well-known method for treating mental health issues. It’s not just about passive listening. It involves active participation. This could be playing an instrument, singing, or simply engaging with it on a deeper level. It offers a unique way to express feelings. Especially for those who find it hard to put their thoughts into words.

History of Music Therapy:

Music therapy has been a powerful healing tool for a long time, dating back to the days of ancient philosophers like Aristotle and Plato. Its formal practice began after the World Wars. Musicians played music in veterans’ hospitals, helping soldiers with their war injuries. This led hospitals to start hiring musicians. These musicians needed special training, which led to the creation of college courses.

The idea of it as therapy first appeared in 1789 in an article called “Music Physically Considered.” In the early 1800s, students Edwin Atlee and Samuel Mathews, under Dr. Benjamin Rush, wrote about its healing effects. Hospitals began using it in the 1800s, experimenting with its benefits.

In the 1900s, interest in music therapy grew. People formed several organizations, though they didn’t last long. They started the first journals, books, and courses on music therapy, helping the field grow.

The 1940s were key for it. Figures like Ira Altshuler, Willem van de Wall, and E. Thayer Gaston helped make it a recognized profession. Colleges, starting with Michigan State University in 1944, began offering programs of it.

The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) formed in 1998, merging two older groups. AMTA now supports music therapists, students, and the public, promoting the its benefits.

Other groups such as the National Association for Music Therapy started in 1950 and the American Association for Music Therapy in 1971. These groups set educational and practice standards for music therapy. They focused on research and professional growth. So these developments show how has grown from an ancient concept into a modern therapeutic practice.

The effects on Anxiety:

Anxiety is when you feel worried, scared, or tense, and it can make your heart beat fast or make you feel sick. If anxiety gets too strong and isn’t treated, it can turn into a bigger problem. Around the world, lots of people have anxiety disorders, which can make life hard in many ways, like making it tough to find a job or even leading to thoughts of suicide.

Doctors often give medicine to treat anxiety, but these medicines can have side effects like trouble sleeping or stomachaches. Another common treatment is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a type of talking therapy, but it doesn’t always work for everyone. Sometimes, people still feel anxious after CBT, or they might start feeling anxious again later.

This is where it comes in. It’s a special way of using it to improve your health and happiness. A special kind of treatment where trained therapists use music to help you feel better, both in your mind and body. It’s a safe and gentle way to treat anxiety and is getting more popular for helping with mental health problems.

Music influences the release of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol in the body. Lowering these hormones through it can aid in easing symptoms associated with anxiety.

Researchers have been studying how well it works for anxiety. They’ve found that it can really help, especially for kids with anxiety and people with cancer or obsessive-compulsive disorder. But, some studies say it might not help everyone, so scientists are still trying to figure out how best to use it for anxiety.

The effects on depression:

Music therapy is so effective for people with depression. It turns out, music therapy works well because it lets patients experience something new and different through playing it and connecting with others.

It helps people with depression in many ways. Furthermore, being actively involved in music during therapy sessions gives people new experiences. These experiences are not just about listening to it but also about feeling, moving, connecting with others and building a relationship with the therapist.

It[s special because it has three parts: it’s about enjoying the sound (aesthetic), moving and playing instruments (physical), and forming a bond with the therapist (relational). Each part is important and helps patients in its own way.

In addition, researchers from McGill University in Montreal have found evidence suggesting that enjoying music leads to the release of dopamine in the brain. In their study, they used brain scans to examine the connection with dopamine levels. The findings revealed that when participants listened to music they liked, their dopamine levels increased by up to nine percent.

Neural plasticity is the brain’s ability to change and adapt, but this process doesn’t work as well when someone is depressed. In musicians, certain parts of the brain, like the areas used for movement, some upper brain areas, and lower temporal areas, are more developed.

In Norway, the University of Bergen did a study on how it affects people with mild brain injuries. They looked at changes in a specific part of the brain, the orbitofrontal cortex, before and after patients received music therapy. The results were pretty impressive. After it, six out of seven patients got better at social and cognitive skills, and they even managed to go back to work.

What types of music helps with depression and anxiety?

Instrumental and in particular classical music, is good for mental and emotional health. One research showed that people felt less anxious and had less pain after surgery when they listened to calming classical one beforehand. Also, this kind of music can make you feel better, think clearer, and remember more.

A new study in the Psychology of Music found that classical and instrumental music can help improve mental health. People who listened to these types felt less worried, sad, and stressed. Besides, can also make your brain work better.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, a lot of people felt lonely. A study of more than 2,100 adults showed that over half of them started listening to classical and instrumental sounds more while at home. They used this types to help them relax, feel less lonely, and helped to cope with depression.

A study showed that people who are afraid of heights felt less anxious after listening to the instrumental one following a virtual reality experience of being up high. The classic one can reduce symptoms of depression.

Even sad music can be good for mental health. It might be surprising, but it can actually help you feel better. It can make you feel understood, sharing feelings like sadness or loneliness. Listening to sad tones makes us feel connected to others and acknowledges our complex feelings.

Feeling sad is normal, and we should allow ourselves to experience it. By listening to sad sounds, we can feel our emotions more deeply and being more aware of ourselves. Also other types of music such as jazz, rock, electronic and pop have benefits in improving mental health. Check out this spotify playlist to boost your mental health.

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