And truly becoming well in mind and body may involve multiple strategies depending on your specific challenge.
That’s why I want to encourage you to add the healing power of music to your day.
Though music isn’t a replacement for professional medical treatment, you might be surprised by the unique ways music can be a meaningful part of your “healing team”.
That’s because music has been proven to reduce pain, improve mood, and even change brain activity in people suffering from various illnesses. It can also help you to relax, focus, and enjoy life more fully.
In this article, I’ll show you how to use music for healing purposes and offer you a wealth of resources to find the best ways to add music to your healing regimen.
The instability and intensity of life in the 2020’s has given rise to unprecedented levels of stress throughout our population.
If you’ve been dealing with more stress and anxiety than usual, you’re not alone.
According to a 2021 national survey from The American Psychological Association one in three Americans (32%) said sometimes they are so stressed that they struggle to make even basic decisions (e.g., what to wear, what to eat).
Not only that, but a whopping 84% of adults reported feeling at least one emotion associated with prolonged stress in the prior two weeks.
Even though stress is a normal part of life, prolonged exposure can cause serious health issues like heart attacks, high blood pressure and even stroke if left managed.
That’s because during stress your adrenal gland produces the stress hormone cortisol.
And while this chemical is an important source of short term energy for dealing with immediate challenges, cortisol builds up in the body if left unused.
It’s vital to know that built up cortisol acts against the body and can degrade organ and muscle tissue and kill brain cells.
That’s a key reason why the body becomes fatigued and exhausted under constant stress.
The good news is that there are a number of evidence based ways you can use right now to lower stress.
Here are a few helpful and evidence based recommendations from The American Psychological Association:
Image source: American Psychological Association
Throughout the ages, people have used music healing to reliably soothe stress and lift their spirits.
Recently, more research about music’s healing potential is emerging in exciting and surprising new directions.
As you can see in this chart, the sheer number of studies on using music as a healing tool for conditions like anxiety, depression, PTSD, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia is at an all time high!
Image source: Frontiers in Psychology
Some recent highlights include:
But can music help lower pain?
Thankfully, recent research shows significant promise in this area as well!
Like so many things about our bodies, there’s a distinct relationship between stress and pain. Simply put, the higher your stress, the more likely your perception of pain rises.
Fortunately, the opposite is also true.
That’s why music can be an important part of your healing process when it comes to managing pain.
Here’s what the most recent research is uncovering about the healing potential of music for pain:
Participants experiencing music healing at a live Jim Donovan corporate team building event
Some scientists believe the answer may reside in music’s ability to “hijack” the brain’s attention. After all, listening to music puts *many* new demands upon the brain.
The elements of music like rhythm, tone and pitch are processed in different parts of the brain and then somehow, the brain puts all of those pieces together so you can experience the music!
While your brain is hard at work creating your music listening experience, it’s less able to focus on pain.
Additionally, listening to your preferred music can distract your brain even further by creating the positive emotions associated with your favorite songs as well as any nostalgic memories that may arise.
Not only that, but unlike some common pharmaceutical pain relievers, music doesn’t cause harmful side effects and can be used anytime you need it.
Beginner drummers at a community drum circle with Jim Donovan
If you’re in pain or experiencing high stress, here are some useful tips on how to integrate music’s healing potential into your everyday life.
Participants at Canyon Ranch in Tuscon, AZ learning the brain humming technique with Jim Donovan
Remember, healing is the process of becoming well or ”whole” again.
That’s why I want to encourage you to find at least one way to let music be a meaningful part of your “healing team”.
You deserve to feel good!
And remember, if you found this article helpful, feel free to share it on your favorite social media channel.
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About the author:
Jim Donovan M.Ed. is a multi-platinum musician, educator and TEDx speaker.
His mission is to share the restorative power of music through education and performance.
Donovan is an Assistant Professor and Director of Music and Wellness at Saint Francis University.
His viral TEDx Talk "How to Trick Your Brain Into Falling Asleep" has been viewed over 6 million times to date.
He currently performs with his band The Sun King Warriors who can best described as as a blend of rhythm heavy roots rock, with a strong dose of big barreling drums.
Jim Donovan got his start as a founding member of the multi-platinum selling band Rusted Root.
There he co-wrote the song “Send Me on My Way” featured in the movies "Ice Age", "Matilda" and the Netflix series "New Girl".
During his time with the band 1990-2005, he recorded and released seven full length albums. Including "When I Woke" (3x platinum).
He also had the honor of sharing the stage with many of his musical influences and heroes including Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin (1995 US/UK tour), Carlos Santana (1997/2002 US tour), The Allman Brothers Band (1995/96 US tour), The Grateful Dead (1995 Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, PA) and many others.
Send Me On My Way also became the first song on Mars where it “woke up” NASA’s Mars Rover.