“After silence that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible — is music.” Aldous Huxley
During stressful times some of the best methods I’ve used to calm myself down involve some form of music. Admittedly, I am very auditory and oftentimes sounds can either soothe or disturb me emotionally. As a young boy, I was exposed to a variety of music that to this day can transport me to very specific moments in my life. For example, Christian hymns still have a positive effect on me emotionally and, oftentimes, I find myself humming those tunes whenever I try to calm my nerves.
Today there are imaging studies that show how music spurs brain activities benefitting us cognitively and emotionally. As a result, there are a number of therapies using music to help trigger the development of alternative neural pathways in healthy parts of the brain, thus compensating for lost pathways in damaged parts of the brain. From these studies it has been discovered that there are many ways music benefits us cognitively and emotionally.
First of all, music helps us physically with therapeutic body movements — improving circulation, brain stimulation and fine/gross motor function. Secondly, music has a wonderful way of inducing positive emotional states by initiating changes in the distribution of neurochemicals that heighten arousal which enhances rehabilitation. Thirdly, music helps with timing and coordination which is especially helpful in treating people recovering from strokes, Parkinson’s disease and other brain disorders involving sensory and motor function. Fourthly, music helps us “get out of our shell” socially.
A common side effect of neurological disorders is social isolation, and social support through music helps with recovery, rehabilitation and coping. Some of the most fascinating studies can be found in the way music therapies help children with autism. Music has been found to help these autistic individuals socially engage in activities with other people while acquiring language and motor skills as they do. Finally, music is very personal. As I stated earlier, the personal nature of music has the ability to help us recall positive memories, thus enabling us to maintain a sense of identity. Of all the techniques for addressing neurological disorders, music-based therapies seem unique in their ability to stimulate the brain for meaningful healing.
In regards to how music affects you and me, there is little doubt that we all can tell tales of a musical experience that lifted us emotionally, as well as those more poignant musical melodies that simply ‘take us back’ to times past where calmer waters prevailed. It’ll probably do us well to get in the ‘humming lane’ and discover those long forgotten melodies to help us in the ‘ebb and flow’ of living life. As the old hymn goes, “There’s within my heart a melody … Fear not, I am with thee, peace be still in all of life’s ebb and flow.”
Article by James Martin, www.ruidosonews.com, www.msidallas.com