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Music can save you from anxiety. Here’s everything you need to know about music therapy

Published on:9 July 2020, 18:59pm IST
Tuning in to good music induces endorphins in our brains helping us to cope with symptoms of anxiety.
Chetna Pattnaik
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Yes, music can calm you down! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Upbeat music for a highly-intensive workout, Bollywood music for a party, sounds of nature for a yoga session, and slow instrumental music for a good night’s sleep—we prescribe ourselves music all the time. 

A tune can make you feel many things—happy, excited, nostalgic, or even heartbroken. Studies show that music engages regions of the brain that include those that affect emotions, cognition, sensation and movement. 

In fact, listening to music is considered as a very effective method of procedural support by medical practitioners. Many doctors tend to play music while performing a surgery or even during sessions with their patients, in order to calm the nervous patient as well as to keep their cool. The major reason behind it is the fact that music is believed to induce endorphins–also known as the happy hormones. 

Delhi-based clinical psychologist, Dr Bhavna Barmi tells us that: “Today, music treatment is perceived as a compelling treatment for various emotional well-being conditions. It is being utilized routinely in centres, nursing homes, schools, medical clinics, and hospice offices to assist patients with anxiety.” 

Can music ease your anxiety symptoms?
We all occasionally experience anxiety at some points in life and that is deemed to be pretty normal. However, the frequency is higher in those who have anxiety disorders. These people experience intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. As a result of which they also experience repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and terror that escalates in no time—panic attacks. 

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Such feelings are difficult to control, are out of proportion to the actual danger. and can last a long time. They come with multiple symptoms like shortness of breath, nervousness, increased heart rate, hyperventilation (rapid breathing), and constantly feeling weak. 

Because music has such a strong and immediate influence over our emotions, coupled with its ability to naturally increase neurochemicals—including endorphins—music is used as a form of therapy for anxiety.

Music therapy, also commonly referred to as active music therapy or passive music therapy, promises to improve emotional functions in patients with anxiety.

The science behind music therapy
According to Dr Barmi, when music enters our cerebrums dopamine get activated, causing a synapse that makes us feel upbeat. This reaction is so brisk, the mind can even foresee the most pleasurable tops in natural music and prime itself with an early dopamine surge. 

A study by the University of Missouri explains that the positive effect of music on people can be observed with signs of happiness amongst those who regularly listen to music. The researchers link it to brain dopamine regulation too. 

Not just that, even playing an instrument is accepted to build dark issue volume in specific zones of the cerebrum. It includes more parts of the brain than any other—you engage mental, emotional, and physical processes with each note. 

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Thus, performers regularly experience improvement in cerebrum capacities like sound-related handling, better learning abilities, sharper memory. It is safe to say that music does to your brain what exercise does to your body. 

But don’t worry if you don’t have a knack for playing instruments. Listening to binaural beats–tones delivered through headphones, can help you deal with the uneasiness of stress and nervousness. They help induce a delta/theta brainwave state and have proven to be helpful in dealing with trigger points of anxiety.

So, is there a special genre of music for anxiety?
As far as mental health is concerned, music assumes a key job. While some studies say that classical music helps lower the heart rate, ease stress and lower blood pressure, Cambridge researchers, Prof. Akeem Sule and Becky Inkster are exploring hip-hop music to refine psychotherapies.

In times like these, when we are perpetually feeling stressed, irritated, and nervous—anxiety becomes a very common issue that most of us deal with and even minor tension can trigger that. 

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In light of this, Dr Barmi explains that: “The genres most likely to support relaxation are classical, soft pop, and certain types of world music. These are found to largely contain the musical elements necessary to help a person relax.” That said, knowing a piece too well was found in some cases to be counterproductive—perhaps because it doesn’t capture your attention fully. 

So, what are you waiting for? You heard the doctor! Treat yourself with some calming music and relax as you end your day.

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Chetna Pattnaik Chetna Pattnaik

Understanding fitness the hard way, Chetna has finally learnt to strike a balance between her protein shake and her beer and making room for her writing desk and her gym at the same time.