My deep dive into research on music therapy has made one thing clear— music is a powerful force we’ve been seriously underestimating. Today, I want to share three of these findings with you, and the implications it could have on your everyday life—regardless of age, mental health, or need.
1) The More, The Better!
Listening to more music, more often can give you a boost in all aspects of your life! Recent research on the benefits of a music therapy program on elderly people in residential care homes in Spain showed promising results for a short time. Residents who received the therapy, “demonstrated notable improvements including enhanced functional status and autonomy, increased hand grip, enhanced cognitive functioning, improved overall mood, reduced pain, and increased happiness” (Castillejos & Godoy-Oszquierdo, 2020). However, once the intervention stopped being administered twice a week, the residents dropped back down to baseline after a month.
This study demonstrates the multitudes of positive effects music can have on both your physical and mental health. However, consistency is key—listen to music regularly (even passively!) to garner some of these effects for yourself.
2) Tailor Music to YOUR Life!
To maximize the benefits of music therapy, follow professional advice and start catering your music choice to who you are and how you’re feeling. According to Gourgey (2006), if you were to go into a private music therapy session, the therapist would not just administer a prebuilt track and expect you to connect with it. Rather, he stipulates that they would talk with you to pick music based on YOU. Your music would be based on four criteria: your culture, emotional needs, psychological state, and spiritual stance.
A professional may be able to find music catered to these four criteria for you. However, why can’t you do the same? Consider why you listen to the music you do. Does the nostalgia the song brings make you feel more connected to others? Does that gloomy song make you feel heard and thus, more cheerful? Perhaps the message of the song speaks to a part of your psyche you thought was secret, but suddenly is understood.
Being aware of these four criteria can help you decide what music from your collection you should listen to the next time you need a boost.
3) Music Connects Us
It’s so important to be able to understand others— doing so may even teach you things about yourself. A study by Kwok (2018) investigating the effects of resource-oriented music therapy on adolescents showed promising results, with the adolescents showing reduced anxiety, as well as higher emotional competence, hope, and overall happiness. The increase in happiness can be attributed to the development of emotional competence and hope. The program facilitated this growth by encouraging the students to discuss their favourite music and reflect on how their responses compared. They also worked to perform together.
By discussing music that is precious with you to others, you can become more emotionally competent. Through this understanding, you create hope—you feel less alone, and more motivated to carry on. Try replicating the amazing results of this study by talking to someone about your favourite music today—it may surprise you.
“There is probably no other human cultural activity that is as pervasive as music.” -- Castillejos & Godoy-Oszquierdo, 2020