Benefits of Music Therapy

January 8, 2022

Written by Diney Bindman

Music highlights feelings one may be experiencing in a very positive way because of its rhythm and, sometimes, its repetitiveness, which engages the neocortex of our brain. Once activated, this area of the brain can create a feeling of calmness and bring huge benefits to our emotional wellbeing, as it affects the amount of stress hormones the body releases, such as adrenaline and cortisol, and the reduction of these hormones help relieve anxiety. 

According to some experts, music can release dopamine, which is considered a “feel good” hormone, and endorphins, the hormones which can induce happy moods and also relieve pain. As observed by WIlliam Shakespeare in 1601, music can also be “the food of love,” as his lovelorn character, Orsino, wished for music to play in excess in order to distract him from love.

Read on to see the different applications of Music Therapy and how Oberit’s partnership with Backline is helping support music industry professionals.

Music as therapy

Music therapy dates back to Ancient Greece, so it’s not surprising that modern research has shown time and again the huge benefits of music as therapy for various human conditions, including addiction, trauma, depression, grief, eating disorders, and also for serious mental disorders such as schizophrenia. Music, whether listening to it, composing it, singing it or playing it, is an enjoyable and easily accessible medium for processing diverse emotions and conditions related to anxiety.

Molly Warren, a professional music therapist, recalls from her work in a psychiatric hospital that morose patients would smile as she passed by on her way to the music room in anticipation of enjoying time with her and their music therapy group. A participant in such a group is encouraged to “offer insight, alternative lyrics and tangible themes from lyrics that can apply to obstacles in their own lives.” As most of us have special songs with which we deeply connect, lyric analysis provides an opportunity for an individual in music therapy to identify lyrics and themes “which may correlate with their own experience.”

Music also has the power to change lives. One great example of this power is a story reported in Woman’s World of a woman who struggled with agoraphobia and panic attacks for 40 years with debilitating anxiety and avoided social interaction, apart from a few hours at a care center job. Her self-esteem was at an all-time low when she met a drum instructor at the center, who encouraged her to take drumming lessons with the group to help reduce her stress.

After just a few minutes of banging away to the beat, she felt her stress ease, and by the end of the class, she felt happier and more relaxed than she had felt in years. She loved it so much that now, two years later and at the age of 67, she teaches drumming to help others reap the benefits of music therapy. Drumming literally changed her life, and she believes that just 5 minutes of drumming can work wonders to melt away stress and improve dexterity, coordination and memory.

Neurodegenerative conditions

I have a very close friend with early onset dementia, and her eyes literally light up when she sits down to play with her therapy group, each person holding a small drum or bean rattle to play while accompanying the music therapist on the piano. The joy hearing and creating music gives to those with a neurodegenerative condition is plain to see and further proof of the healing power of music. While this friend has lost most of her former self to her disease, when I took her to my young daughter’s carol concert at school, she suddenly stood up, much to the embarrassment of my 10-year-old daughter, and started singing along to those familiar Christmas carols with the children with great gusto and obvious joy, remembering them word for word, at a time when she couldn’t even remember her own husband. 

It seems that the calming and engaging effects of music on the mind and body are profound, and the UK Addiction Treatment Centers (UKAT) suggest that it can improve cognisance by clearing the fog from a troubled mind, perhaps creating just a few moments of lucidity, as with my friend.

Music and the human condition

A music therapist can adapt the music according to the mood of the patient. If the mood is one of melancholy, anger, or depression, music can be used to match that current mood of the patient, and then used to slowly shift it by changing the music to a calmer and more positive mood. Music, either listening to it, creating it, playing it or even moving to it, creates or triggers responses and makes connections to encourage changes in mood, and thus the  overall mental mindset. Music can therefore improve confidence, self awareness, awareness of others and concentration skills. All of these are important during the recovery process.

Depression, anxiety, grief, addiction to drugs, alcohol, food or self harm are just some examples of frailties unique to the human condition. Even once a person feels ready to at least begin their road to recovery, they will likely be unwilling to seek much help, if any, perhaps out of denial, embarrassment, or because they are still enjoying some of the benefits - rather than the consequences - of their addiction. Music can be used for therapeutic purposes as a tool for such a journey to recovery and can be accessed freely by those making their own way to reconnect with themselves.  

Possibilities of relapse from recovery due to boredom

According to UKAT, boredom, loneliness and stress can be major factors contributing to relapse, particularly with drug addicts and alcoholics, so music is a helpful tool to prevent these feelings from setting in, together with nutritious eating and exercise. Once recovery is underway, consistency and sustainability are key.

But often those in recovery need some extra impetus to be consistent, and the newly launched Oberit app is a tool which can be used in combination with other therapies, as it uses the tried-and-tested technique of rewarding success, offering the carrot rather than the stick approach. Together with mindful, nutritious eating and exercise to engender healthy thinking, recovery can be achieved.

How Oberit can help

Oberit rewards you for keeping on track, and the key is to rewire our brains by repeating behaviours to establish healthy, consistent habits and responses to engender long term change through positive reinforcement. So whether your journey involves logging meals or writing down your intentions for the day, exercising or singing, playing drums, listening or dancing to music, do that task every day and log it on the app to reap rewards in every way. 

With Oberit, you earn consistent rewards and can spend your digital coins on products like alcohol-free mocktails, Box Dog for your pup, caffeine-free teas, active CBD hemp balm, DIFF eyewear, Sumatra coffee, superfruit waters, collagen beauty drink, bluetooth workout earbuds, and other amazing products, subject to availability. 

Who doesn’t like to be rewarded? A little incentive to aid the journey to reconnecting with yourself can go a long way, and that is exactly how Oberit works. Perhaps Shakespeare’s Orsino could have benefitted from downloading the app as an extra tool for his recovery.

We are delighted to be supporting musicians with their mental health by partnering with Backline to offer free lifetime access of Oberit for their members to help them with their mental health, wellness and recovery.

Backline is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that connects music industry professionals and their families with mental health and wellness resources. Their mission is to build a safer and more supportive music industry by helping their community access quality mental health care providers that understand the line of work.

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