By Shannon Boatwright
Music does so much more than connect people, allow an escape, fill hearts with passion, take individuals on journeys to past moments in time, instigate smiles, movement and singing along…
Music literally can benefit your health in many ways and create healing.
It’s a beautiful thing, the powers of music. I’ve written other blogs about this priceless, glorious thing that is music and I recently keep coming across information that proves that music is indeed therapeutic. The benefits of music are so good for our health that it can help us to heal and keep us healthy.
There is a connection between music and dopamine. The impact of music on the brain is substantial, such that immediate improvements can take place. Research shows that music taps into many areas of the brain, opening opportunities like no other. For example, when Arizona congresswoman, Gabby Giffords, survived a near-fatal gunshot to the head, it was music therapy that helped her regain her ability to speak. She firmly believes music therapy is what helped her to regain the skill to speak.
Another beautiful example of the power of music is the effects of music therapy on those suffering with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. With many of these patients, music therapy helps to soothe their anxieties, give them great comfort, joy and even can lessen their need for meds. I’ll never forget going to visit my grandmother in a nursing home as she was in the latter stages of Alzheimer’s. She had no idea who I was. It was heartbreaking. But man she could still sing “Jesus Loves Me” and she sang it with pride and joy in her heart, knowing every word. It was an odd, yet fascinating thing to witness.
Music therapy can be used to help people with PTSD, brain injuries, asthma attacks, anxiety attacks, autism, Alzheimer’s disease and even pain management, just to name a few. In many cases one can communicate through music, without ever having to speak. It’s an amazing thing.
I remember when I was a junior in high school, I’d had surgery to have my tonsils taken out. After surgery, my throat was fine, just felt like another sore throat. But I was in incredible pain – like can’t think straight, constant pain – in my jaws. Apparently when they performed the surgery, they had opened my mouth too wide and over-extended my jaws! Now I have a big mouth, but that was ridiculous. In an attempt to deal with the pain, I remember I would play the soothing, passionate music of Yanni as I took a bath and would hold my head under water such that only my mouth and nose was above the water so I could breath. I would focus on the music and the sensation of the water and visualize my jaws healing. The music would take me away. The music allowed me to escape the pain.
To think of it now, what an incredible thing. There is such power in music, if we only allow ourselves to access it!
When I start any new class, I always give the students a questionnaire. The questionnaire is meant to be fun for them – a moment to think about their favorite things, forcing them to consider the things that make them happy, giving them an opportunity to compliment themselves and think about their passions. The assignment also acts as a fabulous way for me to get to know them. Some of the questions involve music – asking who is their favorite singer, their favorite band, what is their favorite song this week, etc. When a student answers, “I don’t really have any favorites, I don’t listen to music.” – my heart breaks. Seriously, it’s like a blow to my core. This kind of response is rare, but it happens. I want to take that child under my wing and introduce them to the wonders and beauty of music. I feel like they are a lost soul that needs to be found and have the opportunity to connect on that magical level with the powers of music. I can’t help but think, shame on this kid’s family for not allowing them to be exposed to the wonders of music. I know every individual’s circumstances are different, but my heart aches for any child that is not exposed to music. One does not have to be wealthy to experience the glories of music. So when I come across any individual that seems to have no connection to music whatsoever, I honestly worry for their well-being.
Anyone can look up the benefits of music, the healing powers of music therapy, and see for themselves all the research and proof. My hope for anyone reading this is that you allow yourself the opportunities to connect to music that moves you. Find the music that fills you up. Experiment with different types of music that speak to you, take you away, give you peace and strength. And the next time you’re struggling on any level, whether with pain, fears, heartbreak, anxiety, whatever it may be, please remember to seek out the magical, healing resource that is music. And if you are trying to help others, remember that music therapy is a beautiful tool that can be used to create healing and comfort.