“I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we
are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.” — Billie Joel
Modern-day music therapy began after World War II when the soldiers returned from Germany. Musicians routinely gathered outside hospitals and played for veterans to express their gratitude and appreciation for their service. Nurses and doctors took note of the positive physical and emotional responses to the music and invited musicians to play by the veterans’ bedsides to aid in their recovery. (American Music Therapy Association)
Music can build and strengthen social connections. National anthems unite crowds at sporting events, congregations sing hymns to celebrate their common beliefs, and students and alumni chant their school fight songs to show their school pride. Music can also reduce stress and anxiety by slowing down the heart rate and lowering cortisol levels – the stress hormone. Hence, parents comfort their babies by singing or humming lullabies.
Music inspires movement — most of us have a song or music genre that makes us want to get up and boogie! Can you sit still or avoid clapping your hands during a marching band performance? Not likely. Whether you are tapping your toes, waving your arms, or swaying your body – you are moving!
Music can improve communication skills specifically for dementia patients by slowing the decline of speech skills. Individuals who are nonverbal can also be inspired by music to express themselves by humming or singing. I have experienced these benefits from music to be true.
In 2014, my mother was diagnosed with Dementia. Initially, her symptoms were mild. Over time, Mom lost the ability to speak and she required assistance with all activities of daily living. She was unable to feed herself but if you turned up some oldies she would eagerly dance, giggle, and sway to the music.
Earlier this year, her disease progressed to the point that it was time for Hospice to help care for her. She was sedentary most of the time but even then, if she heard music, she would move her hands and smile while the music played. In fact, we danced just weeks before she died. Even during her final days, she was In the Mood for dancing to the Glen Miller Orchestra.
Instead of thinking of music as pure entertainment, think about the therapeutic benefits of incorporating music into your everyday life. The next time you are faced with a daunting task or a stressful situation, turn up the music! You might find that you feel more motivated, happy, and relaxed as a result.
Linda Bull, filling in for the loveable Chelsy while she’s on maternity leave.