Music Therapy: An Untapped Resource for a Better Life Outlook?

Dr. Cindy Haines Health Guide
  • I am a fan of the use of music as therapy. I'm a fan of music, period. But music therapy is an actual therapeutic modality used in clinical settings along with art therapy and other means of therapeutic expression. Cool, right? I know!

     

    In admiration of this, I've often thought about the skillful use of music in a more mainstream way - the notion being that the type of music you choose to listen to has an impact on your thoughts, mood, energy level, and outlook on the day (or on life). I've noticed this with myself, and I've recognized it as one of the many things that is within my control (in a world of many more things that are not). It's a variable that I can modify to work with me, rather than against me, in my own quest for a healthier, happier life.

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    We know a lot about the impact of other types of sensory and environmental input we come into contact with each day that affect us; stuff like food, drugs and air pollution. But what do we know (or routinely talk about) when it comes to other stuff we put into our bodies, brains, and psyches? So-called harmless stuff like the type of music we choose to listen to?

     

    Is it really so innocuous? Or could it be that music really does have power? Power to heal and, on the flip side, the power to harm?

     

    I've often thought about that, in terms of music that has a lot of graphic sex and violence references in it. What does that do to our brains, our moods, our spirits? Does it bring out the best in us, or the worst? And then I've also thought about another extreme: Christian music - kind of annoying, at best.

     

    Until this Lent, that is.

     

    I decided that I needed to help myself stay constant in my faith and commitment to living my faith by creating little reminders throughout the day. This included tuning my car radio to a Christian music station. Oh boy, did my kids love it. Not!

     

    I learned a few things with my little experiment. First, Christian music is pretty darn catchy. Second, it really did have an impact on my mood, my outlook, and my focus. Third, kids are so adaptable!

     

    A news release that floated across my desk today reinforces my experiential data. Listening to religious music is tied to less anxiety about death and greater life satisfaction, self-esteem, and sense of control over one's life, according to an article published online in The Gerontologist. The researchers noted that the associations, found amongst older Christians, were similar for different races, genders, and those of differing socioeconomic status.

     

    The evidence is building: Faith impacts health. And everyday choices - such as the type of music we listen to and the types of television shows we tune in to - matter. Could these factors be as important to our physical, mental, and spiritual health as the social relationships we have (or don't have) and the foods we choose to nourish ourselves with (or not)? I believe these factors could be more critical than we realize; here's to finding out more.

Published On: April 21, 2014